Fellow BART officer takes stand in Grant case

June 3, 2009 6:12:55 PM PDT
Testimony on Wednesday in the Oakland BART shooting brought tears and anger. The judge allowed a BART officer to describe what he heard just before Johannes Mehserle drew his gun and shot Oscar Grant at a BART station New Year's Day. The officer also talked about the last moments of Oscar Grant's life.

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BART police Officer Tony Pirone said that he was a mentor for Johannes Mesherle. The defense is considering his testimony to be among the most important in the preliminary hearing.

Officer Pirone, seen in the amateur video restraining Oscar Grant with his knee, was right next to Johannes Mesherle when Mehserle fired the fatal shot on New Year's morning. Pirone said Grant violently resisted and kneed him in the groin. The BART officer told the court that just as Mesherle drew his weapon, he yelled "I'm going to Taze him. Get back, get back." After the shooting, Mesherle said "Tony, I thought he was going for a gun."

The testimony is key to Mesherle's defense, but the lawyer representing Grant's family, John Burris, in a civil suit says it's contradictory.

"If he thought as he claims that he may have saw something, then that is the intentional act of intending to use his gun and it really does throw water on the argument that he intended to use his Taser," says Burris.

Pirone said Grant remained conscious as he lay bleeding on the Fruitvale platform. His testimony was about those last few minutes and it left Grant's family in tears.

Pirone said "I was holding his hands. I said squeeze me if you can hear me. Stay with me." He said Grant did squeeze his hand.

It was no consolation to Bobby Johnson, Grant's uncle, who accused Pirone of lying on the stand to protect his friend.

"It's very obvious that he conveniently remembers details when it's in protection of Meshlerle," said Johnson.

It was day six of this preliminary hearing and the chatter among observers in the courtroom is how this looks much more like a mini trial than a preliminary hearing. Officer Pirone is expected to continue his testimony on Thursday. There is also an expert on Tasers and another to deconstruct frame-by-frame the armature video.

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