When Pressure Works: DA Reopens Oscar Grant Case with Other Officer in Sights
It’s been more than 11 years since Oscar Grant was killed by a BART police officer on the Fruitvale station platform, but the case may not yet be settled.
In response to demands made by Grant’s family, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley announced Monday:
“I have assigned a team of lawyers to look back into the circumstances that caused the death of Oscar Grant.”
Grant was shot in the back while lying face down on the platform after officers responded to reports of a fight that broke out on a BART train early Jan. 1, 2009. Several passengers were detained at the platform. Johannes Mehserle, the officer who delivered the fatal gunshot was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to two years in prison, of which he served just 11 months.
Caught on several cell phone videos, Grant’s death sparked international outrage and served as a catalyst for what would later become the Black Lives Matter movement. The 2013 movie titled “Fruitvale Station” was based on that tragic day in Oakland.
Grant was just 22 years old at the time, an unarmed Black man shot in the back when the officer claimed to have mistaken his service weapon for a Taser. Grant left behind a 4-year-old daughter.
Disappointment was palpable when Mehserle was not convicted for murder and was given such a light sentence with time served.
It was just last year when a 2009 report became public that highlighted disturbing actions of Anthony Pirone, the other officer at the scene. In the report prepared by a third-party law firm that “examined and analyzed the conduct and performance” of officers that day, it was revealed that Pirone allegedly used the N-word, pushed and punched Grant in the head and again struck the victim in the face with his knee in the course of events leading up to the shooting.
The assertion at this point is that Pirone created the chaotic scene with his aggressive use of excessive force. Investigators said his actions “did not appear reasonable, justifiable or excusable” and that his use of the N-word “cannot, and should not, be excused, justified or go unpunished.”
Pirone was fired but managed to avoid charges for his role in the young man’s death — Grant’s family has asked the DA to reopen the case and rectify that.
Though it’s been more than a decade since Oscar Grant was killed and a year since the report shed additional light on the circumstances, appetite for justice and police reform has grown substantially since the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Daniel Prude, Jonathan Price and countless other Black people across the country. The reopening of Grant’s case so many years later is evidence that the pressure of protest and civic unrest is weighing on those who have power to reform the system.