BART Board members on Tuesday condemned this week’s decision by Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley to not seek charges against a second officer involved in the shooting that killed Oscar Grant III.
Lateefah Simon and Bevan Dufty joined other elected officials in criticizing O’Malley’s decision, calling on her to file felony murder charges against former BART Police Officer Anthony Pirone rather than let him walk free.
“I want to be clear that Nancy O’Malley has failed, yet again, to do her job,” Simon said at a Tuesday morning news conference. “And that job was to ensure equal justice under the law.”
Grant was killed on New Year’s Day in 2009 at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland, when former BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle shot him while Pirone pinned him to the ground with his knee and repeated a racial slur several times.
Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, and he served 11 months in jail before being released on parole in 2011. Pirone did not face charges.
But a report released to the public more than a decade after it was authored in 2009 alleged Pirone played a larger role than just pinning Grant to the ground, prompting Grant’s family to call on the Alameda County District Attorney to reopen the case and consider pursuing additional charges.
“Officer Pirone’s overly aggressive and unreasonable actions and conduct in violation of policy and acceptable standards contributed substantially to the escalation of the hostile and volatile atmosphere during the course of the incident,” stated the report from former Oakland City Attorney Jayne Williams and then-attorney Kimberly Colwell of the law firm Meyers Nave.
O’Malley reopened the case in October, but on Monday announced she had concluded that although Pirone’s “aggressive conduct contributed to the chaotic nature of what transpired on the BART platform, there was no evidence that Pirone knew in advance that Mehserle was going to shoot Mr. Grant,” according to a report from the district attorney’s office.
Simon and Dufty, along with fellow BART directors Janice Li and Rebecca Saltzman, will push forward Thursday with plans to introduce a resolution to the entire board calling for the prosecution of Pirone.
“The DA could have a change of mind and the BART board should go on record that there cannot be justice until Mr. Pirone is held accountable for his violence and creating the chaos that led to Oscar Grant’s murder,” Dufty said.
Bay City News contributed to this report.