California DOJ to investigate fired officer's role in Oscar Grant's 2009 killing

California DOJ to investigate fired officer's role in Oscar Grant's 2009 killing

The California Department of Justice will launch an independent review into a former Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) officer's role in the deadly shooting of Oscar Grant in 2009, the state's attorney general said Tuesday.

Grant, a 22-year-old Black man, was fatally shot on January 1, 2009, while lying face down on a platform at the Fruitvale BART Station in Oakland, California.

 Johannes Mehserle, the officer who shot Grant, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in July 2010 and served 11 months in county jail.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a news release that the state's justice department will conduct a review into Anthony Pirone's involvement in the shooting. Pirone was fired from the BART Police Department following an internal investigation into the shooting.

The new investigation comes at the request of Grant's mother, Wanda Johnson, the BART Board of Directors, the Justice 4 Oscar Grant Coalition and several other local community leaders, according to the news release.

"Transparency is critical to building and maintaining trust between law enforcement and the communities we serve," Bonta said in the release. "The California Department of Justice is committed to conducting a thorough, fair, and independent review and will go where the facts lead."

Alameda County prosecutors reopened the investigation into Grant's death in October 2020 following the release in 2019 of a decade-old report that found Pirone "started a cascade of events that ultimately led to the shooting of Grant," and that he then lied about those events in an effort to put his own "actions and conduct in a more favorable light."

In January, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley said no charges would be brought against Pirone.

"In view of everything we have considered -- and reconsidered -- we conclude that we cannot prove Pirone guilty beyond a reasonable doubt," O'Malley said. "We condemn Pirone's conduct but we cannot charge him with murder or any other crime."

Michael Rains, an attorney who represented Mehserle at his trial, told CNN he "would be surprised if the AG finds any basis to charge at this late date. I mean, frankly, you know, the conduct of Tony Pirone was fairly evident when we did the trial for Johannes Mehserle in downtown Los Angeles in 2011."

Officer lied to investigators, report released in 2019 showed

Johnson, Grant's mother, told CNN in April that recent police shootings of young Black men reminded her of the pain she felt when her son was killed.

Johnson said Grant was devoted to his daughter. He put pink flags on his car windows when he found out he was having a girl, she said.

"Oscar loved his daughter so very much," Johnson said.

Johnson recalled being on the phone with Grant as he was "combing her hair and telling her the night before he was killed that they were going to Chuck E. Cheese the next day and unfortunately his life was taken and he didn't have that opportunity."

Video footage of Grant's interaction with the two officers contradicted Pirone's story of what happened before the killing, according to a report produced by a third-party law firm that was hired to conduct an internal affairs investigation.

The report included interviews with many witnesses and police officers, including Pirone.

According to the report, Pirone and his partner responded to reports of a fight on a train at the Fruitvale BART Station early on January 1, 2009, following reports of a fight on the train. Several men were taken off the train and lined up against a wall.

Pirone spotted Grant walking between the train cars and used profanity to order him to get off the train, the report says.

Pirone told investigators he saw Grant "attacking" his partner, according to the report, and that he approached and Grant tried to punch and kick him in the groin, to which Pirone thought "I've got a fight now." Pirone said he felt "like I'm fighting for my life at this point."

But footage viewed by investigators contradicted that account, according to the report.

The report concluded that Grant "did not appear to assault" Pirone's partner and that Pirone grabbed Grant and pushed him against the wall before punching him in the head.

"There is no indication that Grant kneed Pirone in the groin as he claims," investigators wrote in the report.

Pirone also forced Grant to sit down before hitting him in the face with his left knee in an "unprovoked" attack, the report said. The autopsy later suggested "the possible conclusion" that injuries Grant suffered to the face were caused by Pirone, whose use of force, investigators wrote, "did not appear reasonable, justifiable or excusable."

Pirone admitted to using the N-word during the encounter, the report says, noting it was in response to Grant saying the word to the officer.

Investigators called for Pirone's firing over his unwarranted use of force against Grant, inappropriate use of language as well as his dishonesty about his actions, among other policy violations.
California DOJ to investigate fired officer's role in Oscar Grant's 2009 killing
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