The father of Oscar Grant is allowed to file a lawsuit against the California public transportation officer who shot and killed his unarmed son on a train platform in the early hours of 2009, a federal appeals court has ruled.
The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in California ruled against former officer Johannes Mehserle, who claimed he was acting in an official capacity as a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) officer when he fatally shot Grant, 22, as he lay face down on the train platform after a 2009 New Year’s Day fight.
Multiple onlookers captured video of the incident on their cell phone cameras, at which point the video was uploaded to the Internet and broadcast by international news outlets. Violent protests followed as the footage, depicted a white police officer slapping and then shooting a young African-American male, quickly spread.
Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter by an all-white jury and served 11 months in prison. He has repeatedly asserted that he mistakenly drew his gun from the holster instead of his Taser when he shot Grant in the back.
At the time of the trial California Assistant Attorney General Gerald Engler, while noting Mehserle’s Taser and gun were located on opposite sides of his belt, said that even a Taser would have been unnecessary because, at the time of the shooting, another officer was kneeling on Grant’s back.
Before the shooting Grant, who worked as a butcher at an Oakland grocery store, was traveling on the BART back to the East Bay “after a night of celebrating New Year’s Eve in San Francisco,” according to a federal Civil Rights lawsuit filed against the public transportation agency after the shooting.
Grant, who served jail time for a drug conviction, was also the father of a 4-year-old daughter at the time of his death. She will be paid instalments of a $1.5 million settlement in intervals until her 30th birthday. Grant’s life, and his tragic last moments, are also the subject of a new American film, titled “Fruitvale Station,” that has brought the case back into the national consciousness.
It will now be up to a jury to decide if Mehserle was justified in shooting Grant.