Anger, Outrage Voiced After NorCal Riots, BART Shooting

Bay Area Rapid Transit directors in Northern California began their meeting Thursday with a moment of silence for Oscar Grant III, a Hayward, Calif., man who was shot and killed by a BART police officer Jan. 1.

But the moment of silence was followed by angry speeches by elected officials and community members who said the transit agency has done a poor job of responding to the public's outrage at Grant's shooting death at the Fruitvale station in Oakland.

Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson told BART directors, "You had a responsibility to contact this community and say, 'We need to talk."'

Saying Grant's death at the hands of BART police officer Johannes Mehserle "appeared to be an execution," Carson called for BART to hold a public meeting that allows the community to understand the policies and procedures in which police officers shoot people.

Oakland City Councilwoman Desley Brooks said BART appeared to be trying to cover up the incident and alleged, "There was a failure to communicate and acknowledge the taking of a life."

Responding to similar comments Brooks made previously, BART spokesman Linton Johnson said Wednesday that he believes the transit agency has been "extremely forthcoming with the information that we are permitted by law to release."

"We share in the public's frustration," Johnson said. "But the bottom line is we're held to a higher standard, which requires us to complete a thorough investigation and we have to gather all of the facts - and all of the facts are not in."

The shooting has sparked numerous demonstrations by community members, including one that evolved into a violent protest in downtown Oakland Wednesday night, resulting in more than 100 arrests, at least one injury and extensive vandalism.

Brooks pointed out that most protests in the wake of grants death have been peaceful and that violence last night was caused by "a renegade group" that wanted to "wreak havoc."

Carson said he was "extremely saddened" by the violence.

An Oakland Police Department investigation into the shooting is expected, police and a city spokeswoman said Thursday morning. Because the shooting happened at a BART station, BART police have been conducting the primary investigation into the incident. The Alameda County District Attorney's office is also conducting its own investigation.

Oakland spokeswoman Karen Boyd said Thursday morning that Mayor Ron Dellums recognized the community's frustration with the situation and asked Oakland police to step in. She said Dellums is directing the police department to begin the investigation immediately.

Dellums appeared downtown during the protests Wednesday night and mentioned the possibility of a new investigation while walking with demonstrators down 14th Street toward City Hall around 9:30 p.m.

"I've asked Oakland to investigate the homicide the way they would investigate any homicide," Dellums told a protester who questioned him on what was being done about the shooting.

Oakland police spokesman Jeff Thomason confirmed that talks were under way Thursday between Oakland police, the mayor's office and BART.

"It's still (BART's) jurisdiction and we're not just going to go in there because the mayor says to go in there - we still have to work it out with them," he said.

He said Oakland police are well equipped to handle the situation.

"Our homicide unit is probably one of the best in the state at these types of investigations," he said.

Thomason mentioned the possibility of Oakland police taking over the investigation, but Boyd said BART would continue to investigate the case, even if Oakland police conducted their own probe.

BART spokesman Linton Johnson was not immediately available for comment Thursday morning.

Thomason said about 105 people were arrested Wednesday night during violent protests that evolved out of a peaceful demonstration earlier in the day at the Fruitvale station.

About 15 people were taken into custody around 8:30 p.m. but the bulk of the arrests were made after police cornered protesters outside the Paramount Theatre around 11 p.m., Thomason said.

"There was a group of individuals that were continuing to run from police and burn stuff and throw stuff at the police officers," Thomason said.

"They broke up a little bit when Dellums was out there but ... they never went away," he said.

Dellums appeared downtown around 9 p.m. with several bodyguards and walked with protesters for about 45 minutes before disappearing into City Hall.

"I got here as quickly as I could," he told the dozens of people who accompanied him down 14th Street.

He remained calm as some protesters yelled and swore at him, and stopped walking several times to speak with protesters one on one.

"He is listening," one man said. "He's listening to people."

Boyd said Dellums wanted to come out to the streets to urge nonviolence.

"He wanted to hear what the young people had to say, what their concerns were, to see how he could contribute to the calming of the situation," she said.

His presence did temporarily quell the chaos but when Dellums entered City Hall, the crowd booed him and some violence continued before the arrests were made near the theater.

On Thursday morning, many shopkeepers whose businesses were vandalized were cleaning up. Broken glass from car windows littered 14th Street.

Michael Amine, an employee at the Lakeside Market, said Thursday morning he was at work Wednesday around 7:45 p.m. when a group of what looked like hundreds of people appeared in the street.

Police instructed the market to close for safety reasons, which they did.

Protesters picked up newspaper racks and threw them into the front window. At one point, Amine and another worker hid in the back of the store.

"I was scared," Amine said. He said Dellums had stopped by later that night.

Across the street, a bus stop was shattered and down the street a black Mazda Protege remained parked with its front and back windows smashed. Farther down, the front doors and a window of a McDonald's restaurant were broken.

Thomason said at least one person, a TV cameraman, was injured in the violence. No police officers were hurt, he said.

He said three or four vehicles were burned and that a police car was damaged. About seven fires were reported altogether, and Thomason said some people were throwing trash into the street then lighting it on fire.

Thomason said Oakland police handled the situation well given the short notice. He condemned the violence but said peaceful protests are welcome.

"The Oakland Police Department understands that it's a very sensitive situation what happened with BART PD and we understand that people need an outlet to vent their frustrations," he said.

"We're there if people want to peacefully protest, we'll facilitate that," he said.

Thomason pointed out that the police response and the cleanup Thursday will be costly to the city.

"People need to understand that Oakland is in a deficit situation and we had to call in officers on overtime," he said.

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