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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Oscar Grant Verdict Updates

Posted By on Thu, Jul 8, 2010 at 4:09 PM

click to enlarge Involuntary manslaughter for Mehserle - TWITTER.COM/OAKLANDRIOTS
Check back for updates. Scroll to the bottom for the latest news from our reporters on scene.

Ex-BART cop Johannes Mehserle has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of unarmed BART passenger Oscar Grant.

The jury could have convicted Mehserle of either second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter -- both charges that would have required the jury to believe that Mehserle intended to kill Grant. That was evidently too much for the jury, which declared its belief that the former policeman didn't intend to kill the man he shot via its involuntary manslaughter conviction. This carries a sentence of two to four years; a potential gun enhancement could bump that to five-to-14 years .

The aftermath of this ruling remains to be seen. SF Weekly has Chris Roberts en route to downtown Oakland and Alex Wolens and Taylor Friedman on the way to downtown San Francisco. Check back for updates early and often.

First time a police officer convicted for shooting a black man in Bay Area history

4:15 p.m.: Veteran Oakland civil rights attorney Jim Chanin -- who has sued Bay Area police departments countless times -- told SF Weekly he had mixed feelings about the verdict.

In 40 years as a Bay Area lawyer and community organizer, this, he says, is the first time a police officer has been convicted of a criminal charge for shooting a black person. "When I first came to the Bay Area as a young person, I don't think this would have been charged, much less convicted," Chanin says. So that's the good side for him.

On the other hand, Chanin -- and, doubtless many others -- had trouble buying Mehserle's story that he consciously meant to Tase Grant and not shoot him. "He did not tell anyone about this so-called mistake, including his friends until much later. He waited so long -- over a year," says the lawyer. (In fact, he waited until he had a veteran lawyer of his own, Michael Rains). "It's unlikely that if this had been anyone other than a police officer that the verdict would have been as minimal as it was ... But I have watched police get off [without punishment] for years; the prosecutions are few and far-between and the convictions are even rarer than that. So I have mixed emotions."

click to enlarge Oakland, 12th and Broadway - TWITTER.COM/OAKLANDRIOTS
  • Oakland, 12th and Broadway
4:30 p.m.: Chris Roberts reports a smooth ride on BART toward downtown Oakland. The platform was teeming with riders eager to get home early.

All quiet in downtown Oakland

4:49 p.m. Roberts reports a gaggle of BART police, orange-suited security personnel, and approximately 75 to 100 bystanders standing by at a fairly tranquil Oakland Civic Center. No fewer than six news vans are there to cover what is, so far, a non-event. Reports from Los Angeles claim media outnumber demonstrators.

4:53 p.m. Taylor Friedman reports nothing is doing at San Francisco City Hall.

4:55 p.m. Roberts reports plenty of media on hand to cover a minor scuffle at 12th and Broadway in Oakland. A young man handing out fliers decrying violence denied his interview request as "the media is the source of the violence." A rally is scheduled for 6 p.m. at 14th and Broadway in Oakland.

Sentencing day: Aug. 6

4:59 p.m.: Mark Aug. 6 on your calendars as the next big day. That's Mehserle's sentencing. His manslaughter conviction carries two-to-four years. The gun enhancement could add three, four, or 10 years to that. That's five-to-14.

5:01 p.m.: John Burris, the lawyer representing Grant's family in its multi-million dollar civil case vs. BART, has made a statement. Speaking for Grant's survivors: "We are extremely disappointed with this verdict. ... We do believe this was a murder case, a second-degree murder."

While Mehserle is facing five-to-14 years, Burris believes "he should be going to jail for the rest of his life." But he urged others feeling his pain to keep things civil. "One death is enough."

A very badly timed bank job

5:10 p.m. Still life on Market Street. No wind of angry protesters -- but Alex Wolens and Taylor Friedman did spot three men who chose an inopportune moment to pull of an alleged fraud attempt at the Wells Fargo on Market and Hyde. Several cops were quickly on hand to bust the purported grifters. 

5:11 p.m.: Roberts reports a light presence of police on BART trains, but six officers at the 12th Street station -- along with yellow-vested BART employees. Oakland Police officers are not mingling with the crowd, which has grown to 150 at Oakland Civic Center, but are on the perimeter. A man is painting the scene in watercolor. He apparently has some talent.

5:20 p.m. "The angry people have arrived," reports Roberts from 14th and Broadway in Oakland. The Socialist Workers have shown up with a banner reading "No Justice, No Peace, Disarm All Police." Parts of the crowd are now massing in the street and have blocked a bus.

click to enlarge Looting, followed by burning - HTTP://TWITTER.COM/ALDRIN16
5:25 p.m. Bad luck for passengers on the No. 72 bus. That's the one being blocked. Crowd up to 300 at 14th and Broadway. Oakland Police presence more visible, Roberts says. He's heading to the front of the crowd to attempt to catch bits of the speakers' frenzied oratory.

Oakland crowd chases police negotiators from street

5:30 p.m. A quartet of Oakland police officers rolled into the crowd in a red dune buggy-like vehicle (large tires, roll bar). They announced "We're the Oakland Police and we're here to assist you with your peaceful protest." A number of crowd members surrounded the vehicle menacingly, and "they reversed and got the hell out of here," Roberts reports. Police presence has grown more visible still.

5:35 p.m. An Oakland shopkeeper tells us that helicopters were buzzing overhead at 49th and Telegraph not long ago, but they have since moved on. It's now quiet.

Three police cars surrounded by abusive crowd; cars allegedly mildly wound woman while beating hasty retreat

5:36 p.m. Three Oakland cops surrounded by rioters tossing bottles and punching the car at 12th and Broadway. Cars apparently ran over a protester -- who was not seriously wounded -- in their quick exit. OPD may have botched this by not having nearly enough presence at the outset, Roberts reports.  
5:40 p.m.: Roberts: It was a woman who was allegedly struck by the OPD car (East Bay Express says car ran over her foot. Here's a photo.). Streets closed off between 11th and Broadway. Police set riot line at 11th and Broadway.

5:45 p.m.: Roberts is at the riot line at 11th and Broadway; there appears to be another one at 14th and Broadway.

5:57 p.m.: Things appear to have quieted somewhat in Oakland. A large number of fringe groups -- ANSWER Coalition, Youth UpRising, etc. -- are on hand. An area near Oakland City Hall has been cordoned off for what appears to be a press conference. Marvin Gaye is being blasted over the loudspeakers. Yet the press conference area is empty. Everyone is still on the streets.

Quiet protesters are on the scene at 14th and Broadway. Things may be hairier at 11th where cops are in full riot gear. Roberts is headed there now. Every business is closed with the exception of De Lauer's Newsstand. The rest are a forest of plywood.

6:09 p.m.:
Much calmer now in Oakland, says Roberts. Skateboard hotshots are doing tricks in front of the cops on Broadway between 11th and 12th. Hey -- celebrity jailbird Josh Wolf is tooling around on a bicycle. A low-flying OPD helicopter just buzzed our reporter. It may have been only 150 feet over the rooftops.

6:20 p.m.: You wanna get your Johannes Mehserle-Oscar Grant feelings off your chest, San Franciscans? Community discussions are being held at the City College Southeast campus at 1800 Oakdale in Bayview and Ella Hill Hutch Center at 1050 McAllister in the Western Addition. These forums are being organized by the city and publicized by the police. Here's guessing they don't expect folks to travel to Bayview and the Western Addition from remote parts of town.

Here is SF Weekly's list of peaceful prepared events.

6:28 p.m.: Roberts: An unidentified group of people have unfurled a large "Oakland Says Guilty" banner from the street sign on 14th Street. A man ran to an open mic and bellowed "They shooting! They shooting!" Perhaps he was attempting to induce a stampede -- because there was no shooting of guns, tear gas, or anything else, it would seem.

Chess games and the Brass Liberation Orchestra have been spotted. If you're in a fringe lefty group and you're not in downtown Oakland -- it's time to reassess things. 

6:33 p.m.: Telling observation from Roberts: Groups of young men not one hour ago smoking blunts and posing for photographs raising their middle fingers at the cops are now sitting at a bus stop and glancing at their watches. Is this thing going to wind down without lunacy breaking out?

6:35 p.m.: By the way, Lebron's going to the Heat

Chris Daly: This was murder

6:38 p.m.: The Chronicle makes all the pertinent points in its sober staff editorial about how this was the right verdict. The one-sentence takeaway: It was impossible to ascertain that Mehserle actually was attempting to kill Grant, but he was criminally negligent and deserves more than the minimum five years in the can. Meanwhile, Supervisor Chris Daly -- not a Chron subscriber -- writes to SF Weekly that "It looked to me like Oscar Grant was murdered. I feel really bad for his family and friends."

6:42 p.m.: You can check out NBC's live video feed here.

6:50 p.m.: When at the downtown Oakland Oscar Grant protests, be mindful of the omnipresent Frank Chu.

6:59 p.m.: The line of police at 11th and Broadway has pushed up to 12th. So the crowd is milling between 12th and 14th. There are now 120 police on the scene, according to Roberts. Around 1,000 demonstrators are in the immediate vicinity. "This is the most well-documented action I've seen in my life. They have the iPhones out, the pocket cams, the SLRs. Somebody couldn't pick their nose here without someone getting a photo of it."

The only scary incident of note Roberts has witnessed was the woman whose foot was allegedly rolled over by a police car after the police cars were surrounded by an angry, bottle-wielding crowd. While some protesters have yelled or cursed at the police, there hasn't appeared to be any serious fighting.

De Lauer's Newsstand, the sole open business in the vicinity, is doing "a booming business," says Roberts.

7:15 p.m. In a hopeful sign of what's to come @OaklandRiots has changed the design of his page from cops in riot gear and fire to peace signs. Hope his dogs are okay.

The woman allegedly hit by the police car turned down medical treatment. No arrests have yet been made in Oakland.

Former S.F. police chief, mayor: "Justice was done"

7:30 p.m.:
Former San Francisco chief of police and mayor Frank Jordan, who earlier told SF Weekly he didn't believe Mehserle's tale of intending to fire a Taser but instead shooting his pistol, says he believes the former BART cop got lucky.

"He was fortunate, I think," says Jordan of Mehserle. "He got the best of what I think he could get."

Jordan said the involuntary manslaughter conviction was fitting: "Justice was done, though some people will feel it was too lenient. ... I found it hard to believe he'd reach for a gun instead of a Taser. It was in the heat of the moment; usually a police officer is supposed to show emotional stability and maintain peace and order. He didn't. He didn't deliberately kill the man. But he did kill him. He did the wrong thing and now he has to pay the bill."

7:55 p.m.: Huh. Now the U.S. Department of Justice says it may launch an investigation of whether it can get involved and start prosecuting in the Mehserle-Grant case. If it fails to get convictions, where will the demonstration be?

8:10 p.m.: Roberts: A pair of people were apparently just taken into custody by the police. At least one of them appears to have touched a police officer; a scuffle ensued and the protesters were taken away.

Our man Chris Roberts will dawdle on the scene a bit longer. Night is falling on what has, so far, been a  relatively calm affair.

Looting, followed by burning - HTTP://TWITTER.COM/ALDRIN16

9:15 p.m.: Oakland police have declared the estimated 400 people remaining downtown an "unlawful assembly." The Foot Locker has been looted and reports a crowd is purportedly burning store paraphernalia in the streets and tossed purloined shoes at police, according to Roberts. Lots of broken glass and graffiti. "As soon as the sun came down, the knuckleheads came out. And it got ugly," he says.

Many windows have been punched out and police are arresting rock- and bottle-tossing demonstrators. KRON-TV is reporting that some demonstrators may be tossing M-1000 explosives.  

10:15 p.m.: Police and Sheriff's Deputies from around the Bay Area -- including San Francisco -- are now on the scene in Oakland.

10:45 p.m.: People on Twitter outraged about the senselessness of looting Foot Locker, and KRON's over-the-top coverage. Sample comments on KRON: "shittiest reporting ever"; "Biggest loser in tonight's mini-mayhem? KRON 4 #twitterhatesyou"; "KRON newscasters are practically BEGGING the police to go beat some black folks."  

11 p.m.: A first? Looting at the Whole Foods.

Follow us on Twitter at @TheSnitchSF

and @SFWeekly 

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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