The Bay area transit officer convicted of killing Oscar Grant will go free on Monday after serving less than a year in jail.

Johannes Mehserle, a white former Bay Area Rapid Transit cop was convicted last July for the shooting of Oscar Grant, a black unarmed man on an Oakland train station platform on New Year’s Day 2009. The incident was captured on video by onlookers and quickly uploaded onto YouTube, where it was watched by thousands of viewers online.   In the clip, Mehserle is seen shooting Grant in the back with his firearm while Grant lay face down on the ground. According to police reports, Grant had allegedly been pulled off the train for fighting.

During a tearful testimony at his trial, Mehserle said that he had simply been arresting Grant for resisting an officer, claiming he thought he had pulled his stun gun to subdue Grant and mistakenly pulled his .40-caliber pistol instead.

The case sparked outrage in Oakland and throughout the country as many felt Oscar Grant’s unjust killing was another example of police using their authority to inflict brutality. The trial was moved from Alameda County to Los Angeles in December of 2009 after a local judge ruled that “pretrial publicity and the threat of violence” would make it impossible for Mehserle to have a fair trial. None of the jurors chosen to hear the trial were black.

Given his mistaken weapon use defense, jurors in Los Angeles convicted Mehserle of criminal negligence instead of murder. He was sentenced to two years for involuntary manslaughter sparking riots and protests. In the hours following the announcement of the verdict, more than 150 people protesting Oscar Grant’s wrongful death were arrested in Oakland, the city which has struggled with racial tensions running decades back.

Now, the Alameda County District Attorney’s office has confirmed that Mehserle has been granted early release for good conduct. Oscar Grant’s uncle, Bobby Johnson, says that he was notified that the man who killed his nephew will be released on Monday. He says that the news has added insult to injury for his grieving family and the community:

“What really hurts is that we are just expected to get on with our lives. How can we?” Johnson said. “We’ve been dealt with a racist criminal justice system that has denied our true rights to justice…This whole thing was staged. It was planned. It was acted out. It has brought this type of conclusion.”

It is unclear where Mehserle will head after he leaves prison, but Oakland and Los Angeles police say they are preparing for protestors to take the streets following his release. Many who have followed the case say that Mehserle’s early release may spark a wave of unrest from the community that has not healed or forgotten last fall.

When asked what he expects the reaction to be to Mehserle’s early release, Grant’s uncle Johnson says he hopes that protestors will express themselves and stick together:

“I hope what happens is that we stand together, share our experiences and speak to the injustices that occur in our communities. Voices can be heard when there’s unity.”

What do you think of Mehserle’s early release from prison after shooting Oscar Grant? Do you think it’s fair he served less than a year for taking a man’s life? Tell us what you think Clutchettes and gents- weigh in!

36 Comments

  1. Ms. Pillowz

    If you can’t tell the difference between a stun gun and a 40 caliber pistol, then you are not fit to serve as a police officer. Not sure of the whole story, so I am not claiming that these guys were innocent, however, MURDERING an unarmed man is a deplorable and cowardly act. This could have been handled better. A disgrace.

  2. absolutely ms. pillowz. I live in oakland within walking distance to the Fruitvale bart, the place where Oscar Grant was murdered. I’ve only been out here for about 9 months so I’m new in terms of being seen as an oakland “resident” but when I see all the murals, all the posters of this beautiful young man and his smiling face it makes me want to cry. The fact that this officer was even able to get away with the defense that he used is almost like something out of the twilight zone. A police officer, trained and expected to protect and serve the members of his community, not a rookie MISTAKENLY put a bullet in someone when he just meant to stun them a little bit. BS, it’s such BS. You already know what it is, they don’t care about us. How can you not be angry when black folk is getting locked up for petty crimes, doing more time than this murderer with no “good behavior” early releases in sight. How can you not be angry when a life was TAKEN, an INNOCENT young man murdered, and to the man who did it, to the organization who armed him and put him on the streets it was all just a big mistake?

  3. darkestskinman

    Sometimes it is best too remember that laws like government were created by the people. When these things go awry then ‘people’ must taken matters into their own hands in order to secure a better solution/circumstances/future/chance for prosperity.
    There are all kinds of justice. A lot can be and often times, must be man-made.

    Those that that have the intention to do the group with the darkest skin harm should meet with afflicted with the same.

  4. Well if you remember the laws correctly then you would remember who those people were that created and enforced the laws. So people of color your rightas a citizen to claim and cling onto those laws are limited and that’s why our rights are often pushed aside in the persuit of justice. Knowing the system is only half the battle. To know why it is what it is today you must learn about what it was. Last time that i saw this chilling footage i didn’t recall a struggle with the young man at all for there to be any use of excessive force. If you can show me differently give me a time mark on the video and some strong glasses.

  5. Clnmike

    What a surprise.

Comments are moderated, please be respectful. View our policy.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Read previous post:
Close