SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A jury rejected a civil rights lawsuit on Tuesday filed by the father of an unarmed man who was shot and killed by a transit officer at a San Francisco Bay Area train station.
The jury awarded no damages to Oscar Grant’s father in his suit against the transit agency and former Bay Area Rapid Transit officer Johannes Mehserle.
The jury of six women and four men unanimously found there were no deep family ties between Oscar Grant III and his father, Oscar Grant Jr., who was in prison at the time of the shooting and remains behind bars for murder.
Jurors also answered “no” when asked on the jury form if Mehserle “acted with a purpose to harm unrelated to a legitimate law enforcement objective” when he shot the younger Grant.
The shooting on New Year’s Day 2009 occurred as authorities were responding to a chaotic scene on the Fruitvale station platform in Oakland. It sparked racial tension because Mehserle is white and the 22-year-old Grant was black.
Mehserle had Grant on his belly pinned to the platform when he shot him in the back. Mehserle said he had mistaken his gun for a Taser.
Waukeen McCoy, a lawyer for the father, said he was disheartened by the verdict.
“They had him under control, there was no threat,” McCoy said. “There was no need to pull any weapon.”
Bertrina Grant, sister of the plaintiff, said her brother often spoke with his son by phone. “There was a deep relationship,” she said.
McCoy said he was considering appealing the verdict but would first have to consult with his client. The elder Grant couldn’t comment because he is in custody and was returned to the court’s holding cell after the verdict was read.
Mehserle quit the BART police department a week after the shooting. He was later convicted of involuntary manslaughter and served about half of his two-year sentence in a Los Angeles County jail.
Oscar Grant Jr. was seeking unspecified damages. He is currently serving a life sentence in state prison after being convicted of a 1985 killing. Two California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation guards escorted him to court each day of the civil trial.
BART settled a separate lawsuit filed by the mother and daughter of Oscar Grant III for $2.8 million. Another civil case filed by friends of Grant who were present on the train platform was settled for $175,000.
The shooting was depicted in director Ryan Coogler’s feature film “Fruitvale Station.”