Alameda County DA reopens 2009 Oscar Grant death investigation

The Alameda County District Attorney announced Monday she agreed to reopen the investigation into the 2009 shooting death of Oscar Grant following demands from the family to charge a former BART officer who was there when Grant was killed more than a decade ago. 

"We have listened closely to the requests of the family of Oscar Grant," DA Nancy O'Malley said in a statement. "The murder of Oscar Grant greatly impacted the county and the state. My Office conducted the intensive investigation that led to the prosecution of BART Officer Johannes Mehserle for the crime of Murder. The trial occurred in Los Angeles due to a change of venue ordered by the court on the motion of the defense. Unfortunately, the Los Angeles jury only found Officer Mehserle guilty of involuntary manslaughter. We are re-opening our investigation. I have assigned a team of lawyers to look back into the circumstances that caused the death of Oscar Grant. We will evaluate the evidence and the law, including the applicable law at the time and the statute of limitations and make a determination.”

O'Malley's announcement came just as Grant's family was holding a news conference at the Fruitvale BART station where the 22-year-old man was killed in on New Year's Day 2009. 

"Justice delayed is justice denied. Oscar was denied his full justice," said Grant's mother, Wanda Johnson. She was there to ask the DA to file charges against another BART Officer. Grant's family said they did not know O'Malley was going to reopen the investigation. They learned about it on Twitter. 

Then-BART Officer Johannes Mehserle was the one who pulled the trigger on Grant, as he lay on his stomach on the platform. Mehserle, who along with other officers had been sent there after a fight on a train was reported, claimed he had mistakenly grabbed his gun instead of his Taser when he shot Grant.

Mehserle was charged with murder but convicted by a Los Angeles County jury of a lesser charge, involuntary manslaughter. He served 11 months in prison and was released in June 2011.

However, last year, an independent report and video revealed that another former BART officer, Anthony Pirone, hit Grant in the head and kneed him. 

“Pirone appears to be changing, shifting and shading the facts to put his actions and conduct in a more favorable light,” the report's authors found. “Pirone was, in large part, responsible for setting the events in motion that created a chaotic and tense situation on the platform, setting the stage, even if inadvertent, for the shooting of Oscar Grant,” concluded Kimberly Colwell and Jayne Williams, the two attorneys who authored the report dated July 31, 2009. 

At the news conference, Grant's uncle, Cephus Johnson, said prosecutors had told him years ago that they were considering charging Pirone as an accessory but were holding off so that Pirone could testify against Mehserle.

"However, because Tony Pirone flipped, he became a hostile witness," Johnson said. "The strategy failed." 

Grant’s family sued BART, who agreed in a 2011 settlement to pay Grant’s daughter a total of $5.1 million.

Until this year, Mehserle had been the only officer to face charges in over a decade in Alameda County for the death of a civilian.

But that changed last month when O’Malley charged San Leandro Officer Jason Fletcher with voluntary manslaughter for the death of Steven Taylor, who the officer killed because he was waving a baseball bat inside a Walmart store in April.

Henry Lee contributed to this report.