Mehserle posts bail, released from jail

February 6, 2009 11:57:27 PM PST
After spending three weeks in jail, the former BART police officer accused of murder is no longer a prisoner. Johannes Mehserle was being held at the Santa Rita jail in Dublin. On Friday, he posted the $3 million bail, was released, and protesters found out about in the middle of their march.

There were a lot of Oakland police officers out on the streets in riot gear, ready to go in case the outrage turned ugly, but it didn't. There was one arrest and no reports of vandalism.

Protesters were already mad. They organized Friday's protest a week and a half ago, but while they were marching, Johannes Mehserle was released from jail.

"It wasn't a big surprise, but just like most of the people here, we were very upset," said Evan Shamar, a protest organizer.

Their rally to call for an end to police shootings suddenly had new energy.

"I think it got even stronger as people were talking in the crowd about Mehserle being released," said D'Andre Teter, a protest organizer.

"More people became angry, people began to pound the pavement with vigilance and people came together and said 'We're not going to stand for this, we're going to resist,'" said Shamar.

Officials at the Santa Rita Jail said a bail bondsman picked Mehserle up at about 3:45 p.m. on Friday, after posting his $3 million bail. Deputies said Mehserle was a polite prisoner, but they won't miss the high profile inmate, who was kept in protective custody.

"Anytime you have one of those people leave custody, it does ease the burden of running the facility," said Sergeant J.D. Nelson, from the Alameda County Sheriff's Office.

Mehserle is charged with murdering Oscar Grant, who was unarmed and face down on a BART platform when he was shot to death last month by the former BART police officer. A judge agreed to set bail last Friday. The attorney representing Grant's family members says waiting for Mehserle to make bail and this release have been difficult for them.

"Last week we were told by the mayor's office that he was released, that turned out not to be true and so although they had been bracing for it to occur, I think it's like anything else, I think they were hoping he would not make bail," said John Burris, the Grant family attorney.

As a condition of his bail, Mehserle had to surrender his two handguns. In court papers Mehserle's attorney wrote that his client simply wanted to be released from a small, windowless room he occupies for 23 hours a day in order to reunite with his family.

"This facility is very nice facility. It's a clean facility, but 99.99-percent of this people are happy when they get released," said Sgt. Nelson.

A spokesman for the BART police union says the union did not officially ask for donations, but some of the officers did donate money to help Mehserle's parents come up with the money. Mehserle is due in court next Friday for a hearing regarding a gag order in this case.