Northern California prosecutors are reopening the investigation into the 2009 death of Oscar Grant at the hands of Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) officers, according to a Monday statement from Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley.
The decision to reopen the case more than a decade later follows demands from Grant’s family at a news conference Monday. Grant was fatally shot January 1, 2009, while lying face down on a platform at the Fruitvale Station in Oakland.
“I have assigned a team of lawyers to look back into the circumstances that caused the death of Oscar Grant,” O’Malley’s statement read. “We will evaluate the evidence and the law, including the applicable law at the time and the statute of limitations and make a determination.”
The reopening of the case comes as the country is coming to terms with law enforcement’s relationship with the Black community. The deaths of George Floyd in Minnesota, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky and Rayshard Brooks in Georgia have renewed calls for police reform across the country.
Johannes Mehserle, the officer who shot Grant, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in July 2010. The other officer, Anthony Pirone, was terminated following an internal investigation, BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost tells CNN.
Wanda Johnson-Morris, Grant’s mother, explained at the Monday news conference that Pirone was expected to be charged after testifying in Mehserle’s trial. That has not happened.
“Charge him for his actions that escalated instead of deescalating the situation that escalated and caused the loss of my son’s life,” Johnson-Morris demanded. “If all men are created equal, then we too should get the justice that we deserve.”
Pirone instigated events that led to Grant’s death, report says
Last year, a 10-year-old report revealed Pirone “started a cascade of events that ultimately led to the shooting of Grant,” and that he then lied about those events in an effort to put his own “actions and conduct in a more favorable light.”
Pirone hit Grant and used profanity and the N-word during the incident, the report says, and later lied to investigators about Grant’s actions, claiming he hit Pirone’s partner and kicked Pirone in the groin.
But Pirone’s account was directly contradicted by video evidence reviewed by investigators, the report says.
The report was written by a third-party law firm that was hired to conduct an internal affairs investigation that “examined and analyzed the conduct and performance” of the officers involved in the shooting death of Grant, a Black 22-year-old father.
The New Year’s Day 2009 shooting was captured on cell phone footage and prompted outrage and protests. It was also the basis for the 2013 movie “Fruitvale Station.”
Officer hit Grant, used the N-word and lied to investigators
Early in the morning on January 1, 2009, Pirone and his partner went to the Fruitvale station in response to reports of a fight on a train. Several men were taken off the train and lined up against a wall. Pirone then saw Grant walking between the train cars and used profanity to order him to get off the train.
Pirone told investigators he soon saw Grant “attacking” his partner. Pirone said he approached and Grant attempted to punch and kick him in the groin, to which Pirone thought “I’ve got a fight now.” Pirone said he felt “like I’m fighting for my life at this point.”
The report says none of this happened in the footage seen by investigators. They determined that Grant “did not appear to assault” Pirone’s partner, and that Pirone grabbed Grant and pushed him against the wall before punching him in the head. “There is no indication that Grant kneed Pirone in the groin as he claims.”
Later, Pirone forced Grant to sit back down before hitting Grant in the face with his left knee in an “unprovoked” attack. The autopsy would later suggest “the possible conclusion” that injuries Grant suffered to the face were due to the actions of Pirone, whose use of force, investigators wrote, “did not appear reasonable, justifiable or excusable.”
Pirone admitted to using the N-word during the encounter, but said it was in response to Grant directing the word at the BART officer.
Regardless, investigators concluded, Pirone’s repeated use of profanity and the N-word served only to escalate the already fraught tensions on the station platform. His use of the N-word “cannot, and should not, be excused, justified or go unpunished,” the report says.
Investigators ultimately called for Pirone to be fired because of his unwarranted use of force against Grant, his inappropriate use of language and untruthfulness about his own actions, among other policy violations.
CNN’s Dakin Andone and Marlena Baldacci contributed to this report.