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Ex-BART officer guilty of involuntary manslaughter

'The system let us down,' says the angry mother of the unarmed victim after a Los Angeles jury renders its verdict.

July 09, 2010|By Jack Leonard and Maria L. LaGanga, Los Angeles Times

Alameda County Deputy Dist. Atty. David R. Stein, who tried the case, rejected the idea that the shooting was a mistake. The officer's holster was specially designed to prevent easy release of his firearm. And the prosecutor contrasted the light, bright yellow Taser gun with the heavier black Sig Sauer handgun that Mehserle fired.

Stein argued that Mehserle, 28, intentionally fired his handgun in anger as he tried to handcuff Grant.

"When an officer who has been trained to use a gun takes it out and fires a bullet, they intend to shoot. It's that simple," Stein told jurors.

In tearful testimony, Mehserle said he intended to use his Taser because he believed Grant might be reaching for a gun in his pants pocket. While the officer's firearm was on his right side, the Taser was in a holster on the left side of his belt, but angled so it could be pulled out with his right hand.

Two people, including a friend of Grant's, testified that they heard the officer say he intended to use his Taser shortly before the shooting. Numerous witnesses said the officer looked shocked after the gunshot.

The video footage shows Mehserle raising his hands to his head and then bending over immediately after the shooting — actions that his lawyer said were evidence of his despair.

"He's sick to his stomach," defense attorney Michael L. Rains told jurors, "because he has shot a man who did not deserve to be shot."

Rains argued that Mehserle, who had been on the force less than two years, should be acquitted because he followed his training and department policy when he decided to use his Taser. But Stein told jurors that the former officer was guilty of a crime even if they believed he had meant to grab his Taser.

"The police are here to protect and to serve all of us," Stein told jurors at the end of the trial, "not just some of us."

Times staff writers Maura Dolan, Abby Sewell, Victoria Kim and Sam Allen contributed to this report.

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