Grant’s friend tells of rough handling by police before, after Grant’s shooting

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June 15, 2010

Sophina Mesa, who wears a T-shirt depicting a photo of Grant, speaks with a member of John Burris' legal team after opening statements ended June 10. Burris is representing the Grant family in a civil suit against BART. (Jennifer Courtney/CALIFORNIA BEAT)

(6/15) — 00:55 PDT — LOS ANGELES — One of BART shooting victim Oscar Grant’s friends described Monday the events leading up to the New Year’s Day 2009 shooting Monday as witness testimony in the second-degree murder trial of Johannes Mehserle, the former BART Police officer who shot Grant, continued.

22-year-old Carlos Reyes, who was only two feet away from Grant at the time of the shooting, said the incident began after a short fight between Grant and another man on the BART train.

When the train stopped at the Fruitvale BART station, former BART Police Officer Anthony Pirone, who was the first police officer to reach the scene, “grabbed my shoulder and pulled me toward the wall,” Reyes testified.

“[Pirone] came up behind Michael [Greer, another of Grant’s friends] and put his arm around his neck, choking him kind of. He threw him down face first […] then he kneed him a couple of times,” Reyes said. “I was asking him to stop.”

Reyes said that when he stood up to protest, Pirone “just turned around and […] told me to sit down and shut the f– up or he was going to Tase me. Then he said the same to Oscar.”

According to Reyes, Grant then said, “please don’t Tase me, I’ve got a daughter.”

Reyes said none of them resisted the officers, a statement corroborated by every witness who has taken the stand to this point.

Reyes said officers somehow pushed Grant down, and Grant landed on his knees and fell on Reyes’s legs. The prosecution argued during opening statements that this position was uncomfortable and contributed to the squirming movements made by Grant that the defense says amounted to resistance.

Reyes testified that he asked the officers, who were trying to handcuff Grant, to move Grant off of his legs, which they did after some time. Soon after, Reyes “looked away — I don’t remember how long it was, maybe a second — then I heard a gunshot.”

“I remember Officer Mehserle saying ‘Oh, shit I shot him. Oh God I shot him.’ [Grant] was on his stomach and he kind of looked back and he said, ‘You shot me. You shot me.’”

Earlier in the day, Sophina Mesa, Grant’s girlfriend and the mother of his daughter Tatiana, testified that she spoke to Grant via cell phone minutes before the shooting.

She had been with Grant at his grandmother’s house before the couple went to a New Year’s celebration in San Francisco.

When the BART train pulled up to the Fruitvale platform, Mesa went downstairs and past the fare gates. Mesa tried calling Grant’s cell phone multiple times, she said, and when she finally got through, Grant “sounded scared.”

Grant told her “they’re beating us for no reason […] I’ll call you back.”

She testified that shortly after she heard a loud popping sound and turned to her two friends to say “I think someone got shot.”

A group of three friends who were riding the same train as Grant also testified today, agreeing with previous witnesses that Grant and his friends were not resisting the officers that night and that Pirone’s aggressiveness and profanity had offended them.

Pamela Caneva told the jury that Pirone’s demeanor was “very angry, very hostile, very mean.”

“He kept throwing out the f-bomb so my focus was on him,” she said.

Caneva testified that Mehserle “came over and straddled [Grant].”

“He had a foot on each side of [Grant’s] body” she testified. “Next thing I know he goes for his right hip, for his gun. And I said to my friend, ‘he’s not gonna shoot him is he?’ And then he shot him.”

Grant’s mother cries as witness tells of comforting Grant after shooting

John Burris consoles Grant's mother Wanda Johnson as she speaks to reporters during a lunchtime break from court today, June 14. (Jennifer Courtney/CALIFORNIA BEAT)

Grant’s mother Wanda Johnson cried as Reyes told the jury he tried to comfort Grant, his friend of 10 years, as they waited for an ambulance after the shooting.

“I was telling him ‘everything’s going to be OK,’ and to just keep his eyes open,” Reyes testified. “We were telling him to stay awake. You could see blood coming out of his mouth a little bit.”

After Grant was shot, two more officers showed up and began acting aggressively, Reyes said. He said one kneed him and said “stop resisting, I have no problem beating your ass tonight.”

After being handcuffed and held in custody for several hours alone, Reyes said he was questioned by BART investigators.

In response to a question from Stein, Reyes admitted to lying in an interview with BART because he was “scared […] someone I was very close with just got shot. I didn’t know what [the officers] were going to do.”

When defense attorney Michael Rains quoted Reyes as saying to BART investigators that “someone was accidentally shot,” Reyes said he did not remember saying that, but did not deny doing so.

Dr. Alden Harken, chief of surgery at Highland Hospital in Oakland, recounted how he and others tried to save Grant when he was brought into the trauma ward.

Grant was unconscious and had severely low blood pressure, Harken said, and suffering from massive internal bleeding and lung damage.

Johnson began to weep as Stein held up the actual bullet, wrapped in a plastic bag.

Grant “wouldn’t wish” Taser on anyone

Under questioning from Stein, Mesa described how Grant’s daughter Tatiana had urged her father not to leave that night.

“She was crying and she wouldn’t let him go,” Mesa said. She said Grant consoled the then-4-year-old by promising her he would take her to Chuck E Cheese in the morning while her mother was at work.

Mesa also answered questions about Grant’s prior experience with Tasers. He had been Tased before during a 2006 incident in which he ran from San Leandro police, and had told her multiple times that “he wouldn’t wish it on nobody,” she said.

Judge Robert Perry told the jury that the previous incident should only be considered to determine Grant’s state of mind during the events leading up to the shooting.

When Rains began to cross-examine Mesa, the Taser episode was the first thing he brought up.

“Did [Grant] tell you that the police had made repeated attempts to stop him?” Rains asked, before being cut off by the judge.

“I don’t think these questions are particularly relevant,” Perry said.

Mesa’s mother said that she thought her daughter “did a great job not breaking down, considering she had to relive everything.” She said she would be with Mesa for the duration of the trial. “I have to be here for this, that was my granddaughter’s father,” she said.

The prosecution will continue presenting witnesses Tuesday in Los Angeles, where the case is being heard due to concerns over whether Mehserle could receive a fair trial in the Bay Area, with Reyes expected to return to the stand to continue his testimony.

The California Beat and The Campanil’s joint continuing coverage of the Johannes Mehserle BART Shooting trial is funded in part through Spot.Us. Visit our special trial news page and help fund this project.

Beat reporters Tashina Manyak and Jennifer Courtney reported from Los Angeles. Contact Tashina Manyak at tmanyak@californiabeat.org.


Grant’s friend tells of rough handling by police before, after Grant’s shooting was published on June 15, 2010 in Mehserle Trial, News

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