Excessive force in question in BART shooting

January 28, 2009 8:08:16 PM PST
The amateur videos that captured former Bay Area Rapid Transit Officer Johannes Mesherle shooting Oscar Grant have been shown repeatedly since the New Year's Day incident, but now the actions of other officers on the platform that morning are being called into question.

Videos have surfaced showing the chaos leading up to Grant's death and now questions are being raised about whether they also show officers punching or using excessive force.

Wednesday, BART officials were again on the hot seat.

"This is something that was caught on camera, that anybody who looks at it, black or white, goes, 'what,'" Oakland's African-American Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Judith Blackwell said.

BART's new police review committee, created in response to Grant's shooting, held a meeting with African-American community leaders. Everyone from the NAACP to clergy members and the business community attended, but not everyone left satisfied.

"We're upset, we feel that instead of looking at an officer, they should be looking at officers," the Reverend J. Alfred Smith Sr. said.

BART Police Chief Gary Gee said all seven officers on the platform during the shooting have been placed on administrative leave, but BART investigators have not yet interviewed them about possible excessive force.

"We haven't started interviewing any of the officers for the internal investigation because we wanted the criminal investigation to lead to where it is today," Gee said.

BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger said it is up to the Alameda County district attorney to decide whether to file criminal charges, but the he has said he does not plan to charge anyone other than Mesherle, who was charged with murder.

"Every piece of information that was developed as part of our internal investigation was made available to the district attorney," Dugger said.

BART Director Carole Ward Allen is now calling for an independent, outside group to launch an investigation.

"I don't want BART to investigate itself because that's not transparency," Allen said.

Allen would like to see any independent investigator come from outside of Oakland and possibly outside of Alameda County.