The district attorney in Alameda County, Calif., said on Monday that she would reopen an investigation into the 2009 killing of Oscar Grant III, an event that spurred mass protests in Oakland and more than a decade of calls for justice after he was fatally shot in the back by a transit officer.
As one of the first fatal police shootings to be filmed on cellphone cameras and spread widely on social media, the death of the 22-year-old Mr. Grant, who was Black, has long festered in the Bay Area and beyond as an example of police brutality. Responding to a fight on a Bay Area Rapid Transit train, a white transit officer, Johannes Mehserle, shot Mr. Grant on New Year’s Day while he was lying facedown, unarmed, on a train platform at the Fruitvale Station.
Mr. Mehserle was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in 2010 and served 11 months in prison. Supporters of Mr. Grant, including his family, have long felt that justice was not achieved.
The district attorney, Nancy O’Malley, said in a statement Monday that her office had “listened closely to the requests of the family of Oscar Grant.”
“I have assigned a team of lawyers to look back into the circumstances that caused the death of Oscar Grant,” she said. “We will evaluate the evidence and the law, including the applicable law at the time and the statute of limitations and make a determination.”
On Monday, Mr. Grant’s mother, Wanda Johnson, told reporters beside a mural of her son at the Bay Area Rapid Transit station where he was killed that Ms. O’Malley should charge a second officer, Anthony Pirone, with murder. Mr. Pirone, who is white, was seen on videos pulling Mr. Grant from the train, pinning him to the ground with a knee to his neck and using a racial slur.
“Absolutely we are hopeful that Nancy O’Malley and her team will do the right thing, and the right thing is to convict Pirone for his actions in causing my son to lose his life and be killed,” Ms. Johnson said, according to The Mercury News.
Mr. Mehserle has contended that the killing was an accident because he mistook his pistol for his stun gun, which he said he meant to use. He was found not guilty on charges of second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter.
In 2019, the transit agency released a long-sealed report on the episode that laid much of the responsibility on Mr. Pirone. The report said he punched Mr. Grant without justification, lied to investigators and “started a cascade of events that ultimately led to the shooting.”
Mr. Pirone, who was fired but not charged in 2009, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Though predating the Black Lives Matter movement that has reshaped the American discussion on race and policing, Mr. Grant’s death in many ways mirrored those of other Black men and women whose deaths figured prominently in this summer’s nationwide protests. For some, the recent demonstrations were a catalyst to renew attention to Mr. Grant’s case.
In 2009, the killing set off often-violent protests in Oakland, with the police responding to arson and looting with tear gas and batons.
The killing was the basis of the critically praised 2013 movie “Fruitvale Station,” in which Michael B. Jordan depicted Mr. Grant in a dramatic retelling of his last 24 hours.
Adante Pointer, a lawyer for Mr. Grant’s family, told The Guardian that he was happy the investigation would be reopened, but that it may be too late.
“Is this political theater or is this serious criminal prosecution that is being considered?” he said. “Any good lawyer would know that many of the charges that could have easily been brought have ostensibly now been swept away by the sands of time. She once again sat on her hands until the community demanded action.”