Oscar Grant's family asks for peace on New Year's

December 30, 2009 7:52:25 PM PST
Family members of slain BART passenger Oscar Grant III are calling for peace and forgiveness as the one-year anniversary of his shooting death at the Fruitvale station in Oakland approaches.

In a statement issued by BART, Grant's mother, Wanda Johnson, said people should honor her son's memory on Jan. 1 through "a day of celebration not demonstration."

"It is our hope that this day be a peaceful day to remember Oscar and the others who have been lost to violence," she said.

Grant's uncle, Cephus Johnson said, "We want the public to know we are a family of peace, love and forgiveness."

Johnson said, "In the year since my nephew was killed, I truly believe positive changes have occurred in the BART Police Department and many more will come. We want to thank the public for their continued involvement in making the BART police the best it can be as we enter 2010."

Grant, a 22-year-old Hayward man, was shot and killed by former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle early on New Year's Day after Mehserle and other officers responded to reports of a fight on a train.

Mehserle, 27, has been charged with murder and is expected to stand trial sometime next year. His case has been moved to Los Angeles because a judge ruled it would be difficult for Mehserle to get a fair trial in Alameda County due to the extensive publicity the incident has received.

Mehserle's lawyer, Michael Rains, has admitted that Mehserle shot and killed Grant but claims that Mehserle mean to use his Taser to stun Grant and used his gun by mistake.

Oakland attorney John Burris, who is representing Grant's family in a $50 million civil rights lawsuit against BART, Mehserle and other officers, said today that Grant's family will participate in a rally at the Fruitvale station at 2 p.m. Friday to mark the anniversary of Grant's death.

Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson said he will be among the people participating in the rally.

BART spokesman Linton Johnson said the transit agency isn't "actively involved" in the rally.

But Burris said his understanding is that BART has sanctioned the event and will have extra police officers and staff there.

Burris said Grant's family is happy that BART's police department has made "a lot of positive and progressive changes" since the shooting incident.

BART Director Carole Ward Allen of Oakland said in a statement, "On behalf of the BART Board of Directors, we want to again express our deepest and sincerest regret and our heartfelt condolences over the loss of Oscar Grant.

Ward Allen chairs BART's Police Department Review Committee, which was formed after Grant was killed and aims to make changes in the Police Department's policies and procedures.

Ward Allen said, "We look forward to making more positive changes in 2010, including the hiring of a new police chief and working with the state Legislature to quickly amend the law so BART can implement independent citizen oversight of the BART Police Department."

BART Board President James Fang said, "Through community involvement, non-biased professional assistance from the outside of BART and the extremely strong effort by our board, we have learned from this tragic incident. Our prayers and deepest sympathies go to the Grant family on this inauspicious one-year anniversary of Oscar Grant's death."


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