Oscar Grant supporters gather to remember shooting

January 1, 2013 9:16:02 PM PST
Several dozen people turned out to pay tribute to the memory of Oscar Grant, the Oakland man killed by a BART police officer in 2009 following a New Year's Eve confrontation. This is the fourth anniversary of Grant's death.

Tuesday's rally gave voice to people who remain frustrated and confused about Grant's killing at the hands of then BART police officer Johannes Mehserle. Issues of race and judicial bias were central themes as members of the community came out to remember the 22-year-old.

"Had it not been for the community on that platform, that night, none of us would know who Oscar Grant is," Grant's uncle Cephus Johnson said.

Grant is talking about eyewitness video that revealed more about the shooting than he or anyone else knew. Grant's death raised controversy after the video, taken on a cellphone, made its way to YouTube and the media. In it, Mehserle can be seen holding Grant down on the floor with his hands behind his back. Mehserle, who is white, testified that he had intended to draw his Taser and that firing his gun was purely accidental. Charges of racism were swift and unyielding

"It's a very hurting process, especially when the killing was unnecessary," Grant's mother Wanda Johnson said.

In 2010, a jury cleared Mehserle of all charges except involuntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to two years in prison and given credit for time served. That judgment sparked more charges of racism as well as judicial inequality, a sentiment that continues to resonate four years later

"I'm hopeful for that day that they will see Black just as important as other nationalities," Cephus Johnson said.

"Clearly you can see from my son being murdered, that we didn't receive the same justice that other people would receive," Wanda Johnson said.

Grant's mother believes a story being created in Hollywood may help to do that. A film, set to premier at the Sundance Film Festival in two weeks, focuses on the events that led up to the shooting, Grant's death and the dramatic protests that ignited passions.

"It doesn't matter if it was today or 10 years ago; it's still your child and it still hurts," she said.

BART's communications director told ABC7 News that "just as in previous years, BART has worked closely with the Grant family to ensure they have a space at the station to hold their vigil," but had nothing else to add today.