BART officer thought gun was taser

January 29, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
The streets of Oakland filled with anger again on Friday evening as protesters confronted police. There was violence and vandalism.

The streets of Oakland filled with anger again on Friday evening as protesters confronted police. There was violence and vandalism.

The demonstration was touched-off on Friday afternoon, after a judge granted bail for former BART police officer Johannes Mesherle, who is accused of murder. He was given a bail amount of $3 million, which immediately inflamed the protesters who said they wanted no bail.

A rally outside the Alameda County Courthouse which started at noon with about two dozen people began to grow as it got closer to the mid-afternoon bail hearing. Family members of Oscar Grant and Johannes Mehserle were seated first. Fifty seats were made available for the public.

Still, that was not enough for the emotionally charged crowd which began chanting outside the courtroom. Security was extremely tight inside and outside the courthouse.

Mehserle's new lawyer, prominent defense attorney Michael Rains pleaded with Judge Morris Jacobson for a bail of $30,000. He said it was appropriate for a charge of involuntary manslaughter and that this was not a murder case.

Cell phone video shows Mehserle and Officer Tony Pirone subduing Grant who is on the ground with his hands behind his back. It then appears to show Mehserle drawing his gun as he gets up and then firing it, hitting Grant.

Rains says Mehserle told Grant, "Give me your arms, give me your arms." Rains says his client then told Officer Pirone, "I'm going to Tase him, Tony... get back." Rains says after the shooting, Mehserle told Pirone, "Tony, I thought he had a gun."

After the hearing, which lasted almost an hour, the judge said he thought Mehserle was a flight risk and because of that, he imposed a bail of $3 million. Even though court observers say that's a high bail, it did not sit well with Grant's aunt.

"A flight risk, I don't know why they let him out. He shouldn't have got out," said Grant's aunt.

Attorney John Burris represents the Grant family. He believes the judge should have imposed an even higher bail.

"To suggest for one, how serious it was. He was a potential flight risk. How he has access to guns. How he has given inconsistent statements in the past, all went into [the judge's] equation for setting the bail at the level in which he did," said Burris.

Judge Jacobson said he granted bail because he felt Mehserle did not pose a danger to the public. He also said the $3 million was appropriate for this murder charge.

The court filing by Mehserle's lawyer Michael Rains is the first time that Mehserle has explained what happened in his side of the story in the BART shooting.

Related Link:
Read Mehserle's bail motion