More than 80 are behind bars, there is "extensive property damage" and many are injured after angry mobs smashed windows and set small fires in downtown Oakland. The rage was sparked by a white transit police officer's conviction of a lesser charge in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man.
Former San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer Johannes Mehserle was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in Los Angeles for shooting unarmed black man Oscar Grant on New Year's Day 2009 at an Oakland BART station. Prosecutors had sought a stronger conviction of second-degree murder.
Mehserle was convicted on Thursday afternoon of involuntary manslaughter, the least serious of the three charges he faced. The jury's verdict included a gun-crime sentencing enhancement, which carries the possibility of additional jail time. Grant's family remained firm in their belief that Mehserle's actions that night constituted murder. They voiced concerns that the jury acted too swiftly--there were dozens of pieces of evidence and five cell phone videos from that night to review during the short time jurors deliberated. Grant's uncle Johnson said that the verdict was far too quick for the seriousness of the charges.
"We recognize as African Americans, the system is rarely fair when police officers are involved in the shooting of African American males," the Grant family's attorney, John Burris said. "This is another example of that." Burris, who is representing the Grant family in a $25 million civil suit against BART, argued nonetheless that today's verdict was also historic. "In my long history being involved in police matters since 1979 and well over 30 homicides with police, never have I had a case when a police officer was convicted of any crime against an African American male."
Mehersle was responding to a fight on the subway platform and was angry the 22-year-old Grant resisted arrest. Grant was laying prostate and handcuffed when he was shot in the back by Mehersle, who claims he "accidentally" drew his .40 caliber handgun instead of his Taser.
Eight women and four men sat on the jury, none of whom listed their race as black. The sentencing will be August 6. Mehersle faces a maximum sentence of four years.
Oakland PD officers are in seen in riot formation next to a mural of Oscar Grant below. Watch raw video and reports, as well as the original news report (warning: graphic) of the shooting WHEN YOU JUMP ...