BART shooting victim recalled with joy, tears

Thursday, January 8, 2009


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(01-07) 16:42 PST HAYWARD -- After his daughter was born four years ago, Oscar Grant kept on driving around with two huge pink flags on his car that proclaimed, "It's a girl," until the material disintegrated.

He acted like an older brother to his sister, even though he was six years younger than her.

And he was such a dedicated fisherman that during a church trip, he dressed up in full angler's gear, complete with jacket, hat and 15-foot deep-sea fishing pole.

Those were some of the remembrances shared Wednesday as more than 800 friends, relatives and community members turned out at a memorial service for Grant, 22, of Hayward who was unarmed when he was shot and killed early New Year's Day by a BART police officer at the Fruitvale Station in Oakland.

The service was alternately somber and spirited. Many people wept as they went up to Grant's open casket, adorned with flowers inside Palma Ceia Baptist Church in Hayward, which he attended since he was a child.

One woman wailed and was escorted outside. Later, the Rev. Ronald Coleman, buoyed by rousing gospel music, proclaimed, "Little Oscar was saved!"

Those who eulogized Grant did not address the shooting, which was captured on video by at least two BART riders and has stirred outrage among those who believe the incident was tantamount to an execution. At virtually the moment the service was getting under way, the lawyer and union representative for the officer who shot Grant, Johannes Mehserle, were submitting his resignation to BART officials.

Instead of voicing anger about his death, those closest to Grant spoke of his belief in God, his love of sports and his desire to someday marry Sophina Mesa, the mother of his daughter, Tatiana.

"To me, Oscar was a gift of life, the very apple of God's eye," said his aunt, Donna Smith, adding that Grant regarded her as "his second momma."

Some of the recollections were light-hearted. Eugene Carter, a church deacon, recalled a fishing trip in Tracy in which Grant carried a bucket. Carter wondered what was inside and came face to face with a "big old turtle" that Grant had caught.

Asked what he was going to do with it, Grant broke into a big grin and proclaimed, "I'm going to go home and eat it!"

Carter also recounted the time Grant tried to paint his house. "From now on, if I want my house painted, I'll call a professional," he said, drawing laughter.

But Grant was also a serious man, speakers said, who always looked people in the eye and meant what he said.

Lita Gomez, Mesa's sister, said "I want to challenge every young man here today: Let's keep Oscar's memory going. Make changes in your life, the changes that he was making in becoming a better man." Her comments were greeted with applause.

Grant's sister, Chantay Moore, 28, of Hayward, said her younger brother was protective of her, to the point of insisting that she change if she wasn't dressed modestly when she went out.

"We know Oscar is in heaven," Moore said. "We know he is in a better place. Anyone who knows Oscar knows he had your back to the end."

Some wept as pictures of Grant with Mesa and their daughter were shown on a big screen. Laughter rippled through the crowd when they saw photographs of Grant fishing and playing the drums when he was little.

Leslie Littleton, deputy chief of staff to Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, read a statement in which the mayor expressed his condolences.

"Our entire community grieves at the loss of Oscar Grant III," Dellums wrote. "I am profoundly saddened by the turn of events that resulted in the loss of a young man's life which has left a family and a community in mourning. Our hearts and deepest wishes for peace go out to the families and loved ones of all the parties involved in this tragic event."

E-mail Henry K. Lee at hlee@sfchronicle.com.

This article appeared on page A - 7 of the San Francisco Chronicle


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