Former transit-police Officer Johannes Mehserle was sentenced Friday to the minimum two years in prison for fatally shooting Oscar Grant III on an Oakland, Calif., train platform, sparking outrage from relatives and supporters of the victim who denounced the punishment as too lenient.
LOS ANGELES — A former transit-police officer convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting of an unarmed man on an Oakland train-station platform was sentenced Friday to the minimum two years in prison, sparking outrage from relatives and supporters of the victim who denounced the punishment as too lenient.
Johannes Mehserle, 28, had faced up to 14 years in prison after he was convicted in July of involuntary manslaughter and a separate charge of intentionally firing a gun at Oscar Grant III in Oakland early Jan. 1, 2009.
But Superior Court Judge Robert Perry threw out the firearm conviction before sentencing Mehserle, who is white, in Los Angeles County Superior Court, saying there was no evidence to support it. Grant, 22, was black.
As Perry spoke, Grant’s mother rushed from the courtroom with other relatives and supporters. “Nothing, he got nothing!” she told reporters.
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The sentencing followed a tearful apology from Mehserle, who, handcuffed to a waist chain, insisted that the shooting was unintentional. “I want to say how deeply sorry I am,” he said. “Nothing I could ever say or do could heal the wound I created.”
Grainy video footage of the New Year’s Day 2009 shooting was captured by several witnesses and shows Mehserle, then a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer, firing one round into the back of Grant. Grant was lying face-down on the train-station platform when he was shot.
The shooting triggered rioting days later and again in July, when a Los Angeles jury rejected murder and voluntary-manslaughter charges but found that the officer acted with gross negligence.
A four-hour peaceful demonstration at Oakland City Hall moved into the surrounding streets and took on a more aggressive tone late Friday with marchers smashing windshields, flipping the finger at surrounding police and shouting slogans.
Police in riot gear allowed several hundred marchers to move through the streets for about an hour before encircling a smaller number near an intersection. At least 100 demonstrators were arrested. One officer was hit by a car; his condition was unknown Friday evening.
The criminal case against Mehserle was moved to Los Angeles amid concern about the extensive media coverage of the killing in the Bay Area.
Grant’s mother, Wanda Johnson, told the judge before sentencing that Mehserle’s explanation of the shooting was a “fabrication.” She said anything less than the maximum punishment would show police officers are above the law.
Johnson family attorney John Burris said the sentence was insufficient. Burris noted that NFL star Michael Vick got a harsher sentence for running a dogfighting ring. “What you take from that is that Oscar Grant’s life was not worth very much,” Burris said.
Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.