Ex-Cop Charged with Murder in California Shooting

By: Terry Collins
By: Terry Collins
A former transit officer has been charged with murder in the shooting death of an unarmed black man that set off violent protests, officials said Wednesday.

Johannes Mehserle, right, talks with his attorney Christopher Miller in the East Fork Justice Court on Wednesday morning, Jan. 14, 2009, in Minden, Nev. Mehserle is being held on charges related to the New Year's day shooting of an unarmed man on an Oakland, Calif., train platform. Mehserle, 27, waived extradition to California early Wednesday during a brief court appearance in Minden, Nev., and was being held without bail on a warrant charging homicide. Douglas County Sheriff's Deputy Ron Mills is at left. (AP Photo/Cathleen Allison)

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- A former transit officer has been charged with murder in the shooting death of an unarmed black man that set off violent protests, officials said Wednesday.

Johannes Mehserle, 27, was arrested Tuesday in Nevada and on Wednesday appeared briefly in court, where he waived extradition to California. He was expected to be returned to California later Wednesday.

Witnesses said Mehserle, who is white, fired a shot into the back of 22-year-old Oscar Grant while the man was lying face down on a train platform at a station in Oakland. Grant and others had been pulled off a train after reports of fighting, as New Year's Eve revelers were shuttling home after midnight.

Alameda Country District Attorney Tom Orloff said he would not speculate on whether the charge would end up being first-degree murder or second-degree murder.

"At this point, what I feel the evidence indicates, is an unlawful killing done by an intentional act and from the evidence we have there's nothing that would mitigate that to something lower than a murder," Orloff said at a news conference announcing the charge.

Mehserle's attorney, Christopher Miller, planned a news conference later Wednesday at his office in Sacramento.

The shooting, captured on cell phone cameras and widely viewed on the Internet, has inflamed long-running tensions between law enforcement authorities and many African-American residents.

Hundreds of people have taken to the streets calling for the prosecution of Mehserle, with one rally last week spiraling into violence that resulted in more than 100 arrests and damage to dozens of businesses.

Another demonstration was planned Wednesday afternoon.

Mehserle surrendered without incident Tuesday at a family friend's house in an upscale neighborhood on the east shore of Lake Tahoe in Douglas County, Nev., law enforcement officials said.

Douglas County Undersheriff Paul Howell said he believes Mehserle went to Nevada for his own safety.

"He just wanted to get out of the Bay Area due to the magnitude of the incident," Howell said. "He wasn't trying to run."

John Burris, the attorney for Grant's family, said the news of the charge was "terrific."

"It is consistent with the evidence I have seen. I think the family will be pleased," Burris said.

Mehserle had refused to talk to Bay Area Regional Transit investigators before resigning last week.

"I want to know why he did it," said BART board member Carole Ward Allen. "We've heard from everybody else but him. While I can't speak for the entire BART board, we want to make this process as transparent as possible."

State Attorney General Jerry Brown assigned a prosecutor to monitor the case, and the U.S. Department of Justice sent mediators to help avert additional violent demonstrations.

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