Written by Julianne Hing, a ColorLines blogger
BART, the Bay Area transit agency, has agreed to pay $1.3 million to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit brought by the family of Oscar Grant.
Grant, a 22-year-old father from Hayward, was killed by former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle on New Year’s Day 2009 after he and several friends were detained. Grant, who was unarmed, was lying face down on the train platform when Mehserle pulled out his gun and shot him in the back.
After a cell phone video of the shooting was released online, a mass public outcry led to several large protests, and Mehserle, who resigned from the force a week after the incident, was charged with murder. His trial, which was eventually moved to Los Angeles, ended with his conviction for involuntary manslaughter, the least serious option for conviction. Mehserle faced up to 14 years in prison but the judge handed him a two-year prison sentence, which was also the minimum punishment he could have received.
The settlement with BART did not include an admission of fault by the agency or the officers who were also sued.
“If I got $1 or $100 million, it still wouldn’t bring Oscar back. My heart still grieves for my son,” Grant’s mother Wanda Johnson said yesterday, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. “The loss was unnecessary, and I just pray that as officers go around, and they have to make decisions, that they would choose the right decision. It didn’t have to be this way.”
BART previously agreed to pay $1.5 million to Grant’s daughter, Tatiana Grant, who is now seven years old.
The Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant has been calling on the Department of Justice, which opened a probe into the incident last year, to file charges against Mehserle for civil rights violations.
Mehserle was released from jail two weeks ago after serving 11 months of a two-year prison sentence. He is currently free on unsupervised parole.
This post was originally published by ColorLines.
Photo from Keiko Seu via flickr