The family of Oscar Grant and civil rights attorneys and others on Thursday demanded Alameda County prosecutors move more quickly to reopen the case against a former BART police officer for his alleged role in the death of Grant on New Year’s Day nearly 12 years ago.
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley reopened the case in October, but the family and others said O’Malley’s office is dragging its feet.
Family, lawyers and community members held a news conference at 11:30am Thursday at Oakland’s Rene C. Davidson Courthouse to make their demands. Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris, who has looked at the facts of the case, said Officer Anthony Pirone began the altercation that led to Grant’s death.
“He is the one who started the whole thing,” Burris said. Grant’s uncle, Cephus “Uncle Bobby” X. Johnson, echoed Burris’ statement.
Several prominent civil rights attorneys, including Burris as well as Charles Bonner, Walter Riley and nationally-known attorneys Benjamin Crump and Glenda Hatchett, believe Pirone should be charged with felony murder. But Johnson said it doesn’t appear that prosecutors are considering felony murder charges because there has been so much talk about the statute of limitations when the family has met with O’Malley. They have met with her three times, Johnson said.
Grant, 22, was shot on Jan. 1, 2009, at the Fruitvale BART station after police responded to a report of a fight on a BART train.
Former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the case, but Pirone was not charged. Burris said no statute of limitations exists for murder. “Maybe for assault,” he said.
A 2009 report on the case by former Oakland City Attorney Jayne Williams and then-attorney Kimberly Colwell of the law firm Meyers Nave also found that Pirone, who knelt on Grant’s back and pinned him to the ground, “started a cascade of events that ultimately led to the shooting of Grant.”
Investigators also allege that Pirone used a racial slur multiple times while he pinned Grant to the ground. Pirone has argued that he was repeating what Grant had said to him.
Pirone was brutal, causing injuries to Grant’s head, and he contributed to Mehserle’s involvement, Burris said. Pirone was a willing participant, Burris added.
“He was very complicit,” Johnson said.
O’Malley issued a statement Thursday, saying, “I have created a working group led by Assistant District Attorney II Terry Wiley to review this matter.”
“The group has been working diligently to conduct a thorough review of the facts and the law,” she said. “The Office has been in close contact with the family to keep everyone informed of our progress. As is our policy regarding any open investigation, we cannot comment further.”
Reporting provided by Bay City News Service.