(NNPA and wire services) – Riots erupted after Oscar Grant's killer was found guilty to lesser charges.
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Hundreds flooded the streets of downtown Oakland on the evening of July 8 after a verdict in the trial of Oscar Grant's shooting death.
Johannes Mehserle, a former White transit officer, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter which could land him in jail for up to four years.
However, many in Oakland believe justice had not been served and expected a harsher sentence for the former officer, who shot Grant – a 22-year-old unarmed African American on a BART train New Year's Day 2009.
According to Oakland Police C
The Skanner News Video Riot Police were ready
hief Anthony Batts, at least 50 people were arrested in the hours after the verdict for breaking storefront windows and throwing items onto local streets. According to The Associated Press, rioting peaked around 8 p.m. (11 p.m. EST) with an estimated 800 people protesting in the streets.
Early that day, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums released a statement expressing his personal support for Grant's family.
"My hope is that justice will be served. I want to reiterate that the journey to justice does not have to end here," said Dellums, the city's third Black mayor. "If young Oscar Grant's parents, who out of respect should make this decision, determine that justice has not been served, then I will commit myself to work with the family and their attorney to continue this journey to justice."
Dellums continued by urging Oakland residents to "react in a manner that respects" Grant's life and to "show the nation that we can be a model city as a total community."
In a more overt statement, Batts said city police "anticipate protests following the reading of the verdict and have heard of possible outside agitation in an attempt to turn the peaceful movement into acts of civil unrest."
Grant's shooting, which was caught on a cell phone camera and later went viral on YouTube, spurred national outrage and protests in Oakland. The victim's family had hoped the jury would find Mehserle guilty of murder, said attorney John Burris in a press conference.
"As you can imagine we are extremely disappointed with this verdict. The verdict is not a true representative of what happened to Oscar Grant and what the officer did to him that night. This is not an involuntary man case," said Burris. "This was a truly compromised verdict that does not truly and accurately reflect the facts and we are extraordinarily disappointed in that. We do believe this was a murder case…We are surprised that the jury came back as quickly as they did and seemed to be very dismissive of the murder charge and involuntary manslaughter."
The jury, which did not include any African Americans, found Mehserle to be criminally negligent and did not believe he intentionally killed Grant. The former officer has repeatedly said he intended to shoot Grant with a taser gun, not his firearm.
Mehserle is set for sentencing on Aug. 6.
The mood was not upbeat outside a downtown courthouse July 8 after a jury, having deliberated for about six hours, found former Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer Johannes Mehserle guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the Oakland subway shooting death of Oscar Grant.
The verdict suggests the jury believed Mehserle who testified June 24 that he did not intend to kill Hayward resident Oscar Grant on New Year's Day 2009 on a rail station platform, and intended to draw his Taser, not his .40 caliber handgun.
"It sets a precedent for cops now to know that if they shoot and kill us on camera, they can still get away with it as long as they have an excuse," said protester Cherise Rogers outside the courthouse Thursday. "It puts fear into young people — Black and Brown — out here that walk the streets and know now that the biggest gang out there is not the Bloods or the Crips, but the police. It is as if [police] now have the permit or license to go out here and kill our people with no recourse."
To the family and some concerned citizens, the jury rushed to the decision and should have taken a longer look at the facts.
Outside the courthouse, John Burris, who is representing the Grant family in the case, said "as you can imagine we are extremely disappointed with this verdict. The verdict is not a true representative of what happened to Oscar Grant and what the officer did to him that night. This is not an involuntary manslaughter case. ... We do believe that this was a murder case, a second degree murder. We are surprised that the jury came back as quickly as they did."
Grant's mother, Wanda Johnson, who has not spoken much to the media over the trial, added "My son was murdered and the law has not held the officer accountable the way that he should have been held accountable."
Mehserle, 28, was remanded into custody and handcuffed following the verdict. He was then booked into the Los Angeles County Men's Central Jail, where he will be kept separate from the general population. Mehserle is due back in court Aug. 6 for sentencing.
He could face five to 14 years in prison. But according to Burris, there is a slight possibility he could walk away with as little as two years of probation.
Involuntary manslaughter convictions call for anywhere between two to four years in prison. But because the added gun enhancement charges, the judge could add an additional three to 10 years.
"Johannes Mehserle has a debt to pay," said Grant's uncle, Cyphus "Bobby" Johnson. "And if that debt is not paid according to this system, there is a higher moral justice that he will pay to. ... It is my prayer and hope that the judge comes back with a sentencing that is appropriate because we do not want this murderer to be released to go home to eat dinner and then be rehired by another police department somewhere across the United States."
Following the verdict, the U.S. Justice Department issued a statement saying its civil rights division, the FBI and the U.S. attorney's office have an open investigation into the fatal shooting, and at the end of the state prosecution the bodies will conduct "an independent review of the facts and circumstances to determine whether the evidence warrants federal prosecution."