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California Briefing / Oakland

5 file claim in transit incident

February 05, 2009|Maria L. La Ganga

Five friends of the Hayward man shot to death by a transit police officer on Jan. 1 filed a claim Wednesday against the Bay Area Rapid Transit district, charging that they were victims of false arrest and excessive force.

The men were traveling with Oscar J. Grant III on an eastbound train after celebrating New Year's Eve in San Francisco. BART police stopped the train at Oakland's Fruitvale station after reports of a fight on board.

In the chaos that ensued, Grant was shot in the back by Officer Johannes Mehserle -- an act that was caught on dozens of cellphone cameras. At the same time, the claim said, officers "proceeded to physically accost and threaten" Nigel Bryson, Jackie Bryson, Michael Greer, Carlos Reyes and Fernando "June" Anicete.

The men are asking for $1.5 million in the claim that is the first step toward filing a lawsuit. The men's attorney, John L. Burris, also filed a $25-million claim against BART on behalf of Grant's mother and 4-year-old daughter.

"In essence, they were detained, threatened with being Tased, handcuffed and then watched Oscar get shot," Burris said of the five men. "More importantly, they were handcuffed for five hours at the police station for no justifiable reason."

A spokesman said BART does not comment on "the specifics of pending litigation" but that it planned to hire outside experts to conduct "a top-to-bottom review" of BART Police Department policies and practices.

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