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Oscar Grant's family gives a press conference Oct. 8 after an attempt to meet with the District Attorney. Photo by Lesley Cosme Torres.

Oscar Grant’s family denied meeting with District Attorney after case is reopened

on October 9, 2020

On Thursday, Oct. 8, family and friends of Oscar Grant entered the René C. Davidson Courthouse days after District Attorney Nancy O’Malley announced the reopening of the investigation of the Grant’s killing by a BART police officer more than a decade ago. The family had an appointment to meet with the D.A. to discuss the decision. But instead they were told the meeting wouldn’t happen.

The D.A.’s office did not immediately return requests for comment.

Grant was shot and killed while lying face down at the Fruitvale Station BART platform in Oakland on New Year’s Day, 2009. His death was captured on video and went viral, leading to  protests in Oakland calling for the arrests and conviction of the officers. 

Former transit officer Johannes Mehserle, who shot Grant, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter. He spent 11 months in jail in a private cell. 

A second officer who was on the scene, Anthony Pirone, was seen on video pulling Grant from the train, pinning him to the ground with his knee on his neck while yelling racial slurs at him. He was fired from his job but never charged. 

“We have listened closely to the requests of the family of Oscar Grant. The murder of Oscar Grant greatly impacted the county and the state,” O’Malley said in a statement released Oct. 5, 2020. 

“We are reopening our investigation. I have assigned a team of lawyers to look back into the circumstances that caused the death of Oscar Grant,” O’Malley said in the statement. “We will evaluate the evidence and the law, including the applicable law at the time and the statute of limitations and make a determination.” 

In 2009, O’Malley told the Grant family they would be allowed to bring in a group of eight people to discuss the police officers involved in their son’s death. Eleven years later, the Grant family finally got their meeting, only to be told by an employee of the D.A.’s office that only five people were allowed to come into the meeting, a family member told the crowd at a press conference Thursday. 

The family was told by this state employee, who did not reveal his name, that they had tried calling Grant’s uncle Cephus “Bobby” Johnson and left a message about who was allowed to come to the meeting. Johnson pulled out his phone and showed that he received no such call. The family said that some members drove from 40 miles away to get to this meeting. 

The family even made a suggestion that maybe three of the family members could sit in a nearby room and watch the meeting on a video while the others went to the meeting. The employee denied that request.

“I am truly disappointed,” said Wanda Johnson, Oscar Grant’s mother. “We asked only for eight people to be allowed to go into the courtroom. This is a reminder of what happened in 2009. It’s a reminder of how we were treated.” She said this is how the judicial system has treated her family since her son was killed. 

The Grant family said that they will continue to fight for as long as it takes, until they get a meeting. They hope the D.A.’s office will be more accommodating next time around. 

“It is absolutely unconscionable, despicable. This is the latest episode of performative allyship by elected officials and politicians,” said George Galvis, a friend of the Grant family. 

“I wish they would just be genuine. If they don’t want to see justice served…don’t pretend. Because everytime they do so, they open the wounds of these family members whose loved ones’ lives have been stolen by the police. How many times do these family members have to be retraumatized by this system?” 

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