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Mehserle released from prison on $3M bail

By Mike Aldax
Examiner Staff Writer 2/6/09

OAKLAND – The former BART police officer accused of shooting an unarmed passenger in the back was released from jail Friday afternoon.

Johannes Mehserle posted the $3 million bail and walked away from a Dublin jail after being held since Jan. 13. The 27-year-old has pleaded not guilty to murdering 22-year-old Oscar Grant III. Mehserle shot Grant in the back while he was laying facedown and being restrained at the Fruitvale station on New Year’s Day.

The incident — captured on amateur video widely circulated on television and the Internet — ignited outrage from community members, who protested a lack of an arrest in the case and alleged police discrimination.

On the day of Grant’s funeral, spontaneous protests in the streets of Oakland developed into riots in which police detained more than 100 people. Protests flared again the day of Mehserle’s bail hearing as activists were outraged that Mesherle was given an opportunity to go free. He was granted bail by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Morris, whose ruling suggests he believes Mehserle does not pose an immediate danger to society.

“We don’t know who paid it,” said JD Nelson, spokesman with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office said Friday. “We only know that it was issued through a bondsman.”

On Friday, local police departments and Grant’s family, said they feared social unrest would return to the streets.  Even a pre-planned protest against officer-involved fatalities maintained calm.

Oakland Police Department spokesman Jeff Thomason said there were about 80 protestors in total, who walked the streets peacefully, circling downtown and back to City Hall.  By 5:30 p.m. the crowd dispersed, he said. 

Thomason said there would be officers on standby throughout the night, but he was hopeful the rain would help keep activity down.

 "If anything starts to escalate, we should be prepared,” said Thomason. “We obviously can’t stop every little act of violence, but we feel confident we’ll be able to prevent anything major from escalating.”

The San Francisco Police Department and BART police were also on guard.

John Burris, the attorney for Grant’s family, said he and Grant’s family hope there is no social unrest as a consequence of the former officer being released on bail.

“I have spoken with the family about this, and they are disappointed about his release,” he said. “But they respect the constitution…that was [Mehserle’s] call.”

Mehserle has refused to discuss the details of the shooting with investigators with BART and the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.

Last week, during a bail hearing, his lawyer indicated that Mehserle accidentally shot Grant and intended to Taser him instead of shoot him.

Mehserle is facing as much as life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder, or as little as two years if convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Even if the murder charge stands, a jury could find him guilty of a lesser charge.


Examiner staff writers Will Reisman and Andrea Koskey contributed to this report



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Reader Comments:

POSTED Feb 6, 2009

wcmillionairre: "Johannes...stay strong, brother! Thanks to the BART Police for all you do to secure public safety!"

POSTED Feb 7, 2009

Jmateo: "you would think that these smart reporters would be able to title a story correctly. the word prison and jail are not interchangeable terms. prison is only for convicts."



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