Johannes Mehserle, the former police officer seen on tape shooting a face-down, unarmed Oscar Grant in the back, has officially been charged with murder.
Mehserle was arrested Tuesday night (January 13) in Zephyr Cove, Nevada.
The New Year’s Day shooting has sparked outrage and protests in the city of Oakland, with many accusing BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) of having a history of racially motivated violence against young black men.
In 1992, a BART policeman shot 19 year-old Jerrold Hall in the back after the teenager attempted to flee a parking lot.
Although Hall was unarmed, the officer was acquitted on the grounds that he felt threatened Hall would return with a weapon.
In 2001, an unarmed, mentally-handicapped homeless man named Bruce Seward was shot and killed following a police confrontation outside a BART train station.
According to Merrick Bobb, executive director of the Police Assessment Resource Center, police officers are rarely charged with murder for killings made in the line of duty.
“The fact of a prosecution of a police officer in these circumstances is quite rare,” Bobb stated to the Los Angeles Times.
“The police are given a substantial amount of leeway when they perceive themselves to be in danger of death or serious injury.”
Last week, an Oakland protest resulted in more than 100 arrests.
Yesterday (January 14), another protest was completed peacefully with no reports of arrests or property damage.
At press time, Mehserle’s attorney Christopher Miller is expected to use a defense centering on the fatal gunshot being an accidental discharge.
“We’re going to contest those charges vigorously,” Miller stated at a Sacramento news conference.
Oscar Grant III was 22-years old and the father of a 4-year old daughter at the time of his death.
Last week, Bay Area rapper Mistah F.A.B. released a dedication song entitled “My Life (Oscar Grant Tribute).”