BART board votes 6-3 to call for prosecution of officer in killing of Oscar Grant

A mural of Oscar Grant at Fruitvale BART station in Oakland on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

A mural of Oscar Grant at Fruitvale BART station in Oakland on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Symbolic resolution follows Alameda DA decision to not charge Anthony Pirone

The BART Board of Directors passed a resolution Thursday urging Alameda County prosecutors to file a murder charge against the former law enforcement officer involved in the killing of Oscar Grant.

Anthony Pirone lost his job as a BART officer after Grant died, but the six board members who voted in support of the resolution also want him to be held criminally responsible for his actions.

“If I lost my child, whether it was to community violence or violence from anyone, but especially from a sworn officer, I would seek the ends of the Earth to find the truth and hold those folks accountable,” said Director Lateefah Simon, one of the co-sponsors of the resolution. “That’s all we’re asking.”

The resolution comes on the heels of Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley announcing Monday she would not charge Pirone with murder after reopening the case in recent months.

Grant was killed on New Year’s Day in 2009 when then-BART police officer Johannes Mehserle shot him on the platform of Oakland’s Fruitvale Station.

While Mehserle was later convicted of involuntary manslaughter and served 11 months in jail before being released on parole, Pirone emerged from the situation legally unscathed despite pinning Grant to the ground and directing a racial slur at him.

O’Malley reopened the case last October after an investigation commissioned by BART found Pirone used “overly aggressive and unreasonable actions” that “contributed substantially to the escalation of the hostile and volatile atmosphere.”

Announcing her decision Monday, she condemned Pirone’s actions but found that she could not charge him with murder because he was not the shooter and had no reason to believe his fellow officer was going to shoot Grant while he helped detain him.

“Everyone on the platform that night was shocked that Mehserle suddenly pulled out his gun and shot Oscar Grant in the back,” O’Malley said in a video statement on her decision.

O’Malley could not file misdemeanor charges against Pirone because the statute of limitations has expired, she said.

Passing 6-3, the resolution is a symbolic gesture with no authority over any criminal case. Directors Debora Allen, Liz Ames and John McPartland voted against the resolution.

The opponents agreed that Grant’s killing was a tragedy, but felt calling for charges against a law enforcement officer went too far and stepped outside the purview of the transit agency’s jurisdiction.

“I think we’ve crossed a line,” Ames said of the resolution.

McPartland noted the BART board “does not have the statutory or moral authority” to compel another government agency to take a certain course of action.

The resolution can be viewed here.

cgraf@sfexaminer.com

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