Supporters of slain Oakland resident Oscar Grant expressed anger over the sentencing of former transit police officer Johannes Mehserle, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for shooting the unarmed man, and was facing gun enhancement charges.
According to Tiah Starr, organizer with the LA Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant, Mehserle received
a sentence of two years, with 146 days of time served. The ruling was handed down about 1 pm today.
The lighter sentence was instead of the 14 years Mehserle would have received for the gun enhancement charge.
“This is an outrage,” Starr said. “They threw out the gun enhancement charge.”
About 60 supporters, friends and family members of Grant waited outside of the LA Superior Court in downtown for the sentencing.
The 28-year-old officer was caught on tape fatally shooting Grant, 22, on the Fruitvale BART station in the early morning hours of Jan. 1, 2009.
Mehserle said he had mistaken his gun for a Taser when he shot him.
“The whole stance is that it was an accident,” said Starr. “To us, it's not.”
Mehserle's attorneys have argued for probation but prosecutors refuted the officer's claims that the shooting was unintentional.
To make their point, they compared the bright-colored, lighter Taser gun with the heavier dark-colored handgun.
“If it was a Taser, it would feel a little hollow. You'd instantly feel the difference,” said community organizer, John Pedro Morales, with the Southern California Immigration Coalition.
All along, some predicted that LA Superior Court Judge Robert Perry would not impose the maximum sentence of 14 years for involuntary manslaughter against the police officer after the judged expressed “serious concerns” over the gun enhancement charge.
Coalition members also point to the judge's refusal to convict police officers in the Rampart Scandal.
Morales was dismayed over the trial's proceedings.
“The system is set up to defend the officers,” said Morales. “If it were the other way around, they would throw the book (at the guy) who killed the cop.”
The trial, which was moved to downtown Los Angeles from Oakland amid concerns over the extensive media coverage, was closely monitored by Coalition members who have been sharing their accounts of the case on their website wearealloscargrant.com as well social networking sites, Twitter and Facebook.
Supporters of Grant as well as Grant's family members including his mother Wanda Johnson, his “Uncle Bobby” and close friend Jack Bryson, will be meeting at Leimert Park on the corner of Crenshaw and Vernon today at 5 pm.
They will be joined by family members of James Davis and Deondre Brunston, who were both killed in officer-related shootings.
“It's not just for the killing of Oscar Grant,” said Starr. “It's for all the people who have been killed by the police. We call them 'Stolen Lives.'”