Oscar Grant’s Family Wins $1.3 Million Settlement


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.

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Photo from Keiko Seu via flickr


sarah jaffe
sarah jaffe6 years ago

11 months is despicable. That is nothing. People are locked up longer for smoking some pot. I saw that video and wish I hadn't. This was cold-blooded murder.

Hartson Doak
Hartson Doak6 years ago

A white officer kills a man of color and gets 11 months in jail. I would guess that if the colors were reversed the officer would be on death row.

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin7 years ago

The price of a human life, eleven months in prison. Hooray for justice.....

ha w.
ha w7 years ago

If you watch those videos again, please do so, it would be obvious to you that anyone in place of Oscar Grant on that video, particularly being of such small stature as OG - in comparison to the humongous policeman, well - this use of force was not forgivable.
Drug dealing is illegal because we have drug prohibition which fill pockets of many large fish. OD was not one of them. Police should not murder a citizen because the citizen served time before, that's obvious. Many couple in the USA have a child and separate. Oscar loved his daughter.
Let him rest in peace. Tragic, undeserved and premature death.
I was on BART on that New Years Night, and was using it almost every day to commute to work for three years. I feel sorry for the drivers stuck on the bridge or freeway - because BART is great. Should expand south to San Jose.

Marie W.
Marie W7 years ago

Grant was not an angel, but should not have been shot. Rather jailed and neutered.
Grant served two state prison terms for various felonies including a conviction for drug dealing; story on attempted arrest is confused. Most likely Grant was resisting. Fiancee was not that really that- just girlfriend who happened to have a kid by Grant.
Making a martyred saint of this man is unreal. If he had been shot by police while robbing your house, would it be the same?

Elizabeth K.
Elizabeth K7 years ago

@ Cathleen S.

"Given-it was a tragic accident that the policeman drew his gun by accident instead of his taser (which he thought he was drawing)."

So now it's ok for a policeman to be so incompetent as to not know the difference between his gun and a taser?

I guess everything is excused if it is simply a "mistake". Or if the family is on welfare.

Grant may have been in the wrong, if he was doing what you said he should have been arrested with whatever force it took, but we have way too many examples of police over-reacting after the subject is subdued.

Scary to think that there is someone out there legally allowed to shoot people, who can't tell his gun from his.......taser.

Iwona K.
Iwona Krzeminska7 years ago

I send my prayers to Oscar Grant and his family. I think about future of this little girl without her father,I think about future of mother without her son.
I send my prayers to Troy Davis and his family:
I send my prayers to Leonard Peltier and his family:
Always against racism. My name is Troy Davis. My name is Leonard Peltier. My name is Grant.

Cathleen S.
Cathleen S7 years ago

This is an example of what is wrong with our society. It is not about 'civil rights'. What was NOT extensively reported, was that Grant was originally terrorizing Bart riders with a knife-THAT is what the Bart police were called for. Given-it was a tragic accident that the policeman drew his gun by accident instead of his taser (which he thought he was drawing). Grant is a great example of the type of scum that makes it almost impossible for law abiding people to ride on Bart. They are simply afraid. I, personally, have ridden on Bart about 6 times over the last 20 yrs. Each time, I was afraid of some of the people and their attitude. Therefore, I as a tax paying citizen, now drive to my destination. Even though my taxes go to support public transportation, I am unable to avail myself of it for safety reasons. On another note-Grants' ex-girlfriend was intervieved shortly after this happened. What scum! On welfare, multiple children, got pregnant at 14, had the kid when she was 15...it goes on and on. And to add insult to injury-the taxpayers pay for these scumbags-THEN their family gets awarded money for their bad behavior! What a travesty!

Thomas S.
Thomas C7 years ago

Cops ALWAYS get off when they murder citizens. This has got to stop. People are in prison for years for possessing a small amount of pot and this guy gets off with less than a year for murder. Bradley Manning in prison for reporting war crimes and Bush and Cheney, admitted war criminals, walk free. Our entire justice system is broken.

Judith H.
Judith H7 years ago

11 months for murder? I question the courts intelligence.