Ex-BART Cop Arrested, Charged with Murder

Protestors gather in Oakland

The Alameda County District Attorney's Office said it filed murder charges against a former Bay Area transit officer in the shooting death of an unarmed black man.

District Attorney Tom Orloff said the murder charge was filed against 27-year-old Johannes Mehserle because the evidence indicates "an unlawful killing done by an intentional act" and that there was no evidence available yet that could "mitigate" that.

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Oakland police said Wednesday that Mehserle was arrested in Douglas County, Nevada on Tuesday in connection with the shooting of Oscar Grant III at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland on Jan. 1.

Officers said Mehserle waived an extradition hearing in Nevada, and is being transported to the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.

"This investigation  shows that no one is above the law, but everyone is entitled to due process of the law," said BART Board President Thomas Blalock said. "BART investigated this shooting thoroughly and treated  the  investigation and information no differently  because the suspect  involved was a police officer. Now we have to let due process take its course."

Orloff said Mehserle could be arraigned as early as Thursday.

Nevada authorities arrested Mehserle after learning the Alameda County District Attorney's Office had issued a warrant for his arrest for  homicide, according to the Douglas County Sheriff's Office.

Oakland police provided the sheriff's office information Tuesday morning that Mehserle was in the Zephyr Cove area of Lake Tahoe, Nev., the  sheriff's office reported.

After receiving confirmation that an arrest warrant had been issued, authorities contacted Mehserle's attorney, who in turn called  Mehserle.

Mehserle left a home at 1007 Skyland Drive in Zephyr Cove and  surrendered to sheriff's officials without incident at about 6:20 p.m., the  sheriff's office reported.

"We  want  the  public  to know that this one incident is not reflective of BART,  its  police or its employees," BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger said.  "I  have  great confidence in the professionalism of the BART Police Department.  This  was  a  tragic  event in which a life was lost for which someone  has  been  arrested  and charged."

He was booked into the Douglas County Sheriff's Office main jail  in Minden, according to the sheriff's office.

He had been kept in a segregated area of the facility and is on a precautionary health and welfare watch, according to the sheriff's office.

The shooting at the Fruitvale station in Oakland occurred shortly  after 2 a.m. on Jan. 1 when Mehserle and other officers stopped a train at  the station in Oakland after receiving reports that two groups of men were  fighting on the train.

The shooting, which is under investigation by multiple agencies,  has prompted protests in the Bay Area, including a violent demonstration last  week in Oakland.

The attorney representing Mehserle said he is confident his client will be cleared of  all charges against him.

Mehserle was arrested Tuesday in Nevada and has been  charged with murder by the Alameda County District Attorney's office for the  shooting of Oscar Grant III at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland around 2  a.m. on Jan. 1.

"We're going to contest those charges vigorously," Mehserle's  attorney Christopher Miller said at a news conference at his office in  Sacramento this afternoon.

Miller declined to comment on the facts of the case, saying that  his client has a right to a fair trial, and that he does not want to try the  case in the media.

Mehserle was arrested Tuesday night in the South Lake Tahoe area,  where he had taken his family to get away from the pressure in the Bay Area  surrounding the investigation, Miller said.

Mehserle also left because he had received several death threats,  Miller said.

He remained in communication with Miller and the Oakland Police  Department while he was away and was not attempting to avoid arrest, Miller  said.

Mehserle surrendered to authorities as soon as he was notified  that a warrant had been issued for his arrest, Miller said.

He had been with BART police for two years and was "a fine officer  with an excellent work history," Miller said.

Mehserle waived an extradition hearing in Douglas County, Nev.  this morning and has been transferred to Santa Rita Jail in Alameda County.  He will likely be arraigned Thursday morning, Miller said.

Alameda County Sheriff's Sgt. J.D. Nelson said Mehserle arrived at  the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin around 2 p.m.

Nelson did not have details about Mehserle's long trip from Nevada  but said Mehserle was "very quiet" and cooperative as he was booked,  fingerprinted, searched and given a psychological evaluation and a single  phone call.

Because Mehserle is a former police officer and the case is so  high-profile, he was placed in protective custody and will have his own cell,  Nelson said.

The sheriff's office is working with the courts to set an  arraignment date, Nelson said.

Nearly 1,000 people gathered in the plaza in front of Oakland City  Hall Wednesday night to protest the shooting death of Grant.
Speakers at the rally said they're glad that Mehserle, who  resigned last week, has been arrested and charged with murder for the  shooting death of Grant, a 22-year-old Hayward man, when Mehserle and other  officers responded to reports that two groups of men were fighting on a BART  train.
But they said they're still keeping a close eye on the legal  system so that justice is done for Grant's death.

Bishop Keith Clark of the Word Assembly Church in Oakland opened  the program by saying, "We come seeking justice" and "arrest isn't justice  but conviction is."

Clark said, "We come knocking on the door of our legal system" and  added "you must prosecute this man."

However, Clark also asked the protesters to be peaceful, saying,  "We ask God that you will give us a peaceful protest."

Oakland City Councilwoman Desley Brooks, who led a group of dozens  of community members who met with Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff  last week to urge that Mehserle be prosecuted, said, "I have no confidence in  the district attorney and I will watch him every step of the way."

She said the charges against Mehserle "should have happened two  weeks ago."

But Brooks also urged the protesters to remain peaceful, telling  the crowd, "Let's not give the media the spectacle they want to see."

Dereka Blackmon, the co-founder of Citizens Against Police  Executions (CAPE) and one of the rally's organizers, said Grant's mother,  Wanda Johnson sent her greetings and said "have peace in the name of my son."

Blackmon said, "All of the (Grant) family is watching today" to  make sure that the protest doesn't become violent, as did a protest last  week.

Blackmon said, "There are Oscar Grants all over the country" who  have been shot and killed by police officers and said there are similar  protests in 15 other cities across the country today.

"Let Oscar Grant be the beginning of the end of police brutality,"  she said.

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, who was booed by a small number of  people in the crowd, said, "Let's come together to bring real change because  thousands of young people of color across the country are dying."

Dellums told the crowd, "Change is necessary and you have that  power."

Oakland Police Chief Wayne Tucker, chief of staff Sgt. Michael  Poirier and police spokesman Jeff Thomason were among many police officers  who watched the speeches outside City Hall.

After the speeches ended, protesters marched down 14th Street  toward the plaza in front of the Alameda County Administration Building,  which is located on Oak Street between 12th and 13th streets near Lake  Merritt.

Oakland police officers and Alameda County Sheriff's deputies are  in riot gear to guard buildings in the area.

Oakland officials say they hope the protest remains peaceful but  they fear the possibility that it could grow violent after dark.

On 17th Street, the site of much damage from last week's protest,  shop owners stood on the sidewalk, talking amongst themselves and watching  police circulate on bicycles. Roughly half the windows in a three-block  stretch were boarded.

Gertha Hayes, owner A Diva's Closet at 383 17th St., said she was  spared damage because her storefront has a sliding, metal gate.

Still, Hayes made a last-minute decision to close early.

"Since everyone else is closing, I don't want to be the only  victim," she said.

The store has a sign in the window that says "Shattered glass, but  not shattered dreams!"

"I don't think we'll be too crazy tonight," she said.

Hayes thinks the anger has "dampened" because of Mehserle's  arrest.

Next door, Stepping Out shoe boutique owner Shari Wooldridge said  she will remain open because she also has a sliding gate.

Wooldridge also predicted a quieter night because the street is  removed from City Hall and BART headquarters, however 17th Street was not in  the direct path of last week's protest.

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