Mehserle set for trial Monday in separate BART police abuse case

AP file photoJohannes Mehserle

Johannes Mehserle, the BART officer who was the center of a national firestorm after he shot and killed an unarmed passenger in 2009, will be back on trial Monday as a defendant in a separate case of alleged police abuse.

Kenneth Carrethers, an Oakland resident, is suing BART, Mehserle and four other transit-police officers in U.S. District Court for using excessive force after they allegedly kicked, punched and hogtied him during an incident at the Oakland Coliseum BART station three years ago. Jury selection in the civil case is scheduled to begin Monday, and Mehserle is supposed to be in the courtroom for the entirety of the trial, said Carrethers’ attorney, Christopher Dolan. Mehserle is expected to testify during the trial.

On Nov. 15, 2008, Carrethers made a comment about how lazy BART police officers were within earshot of Mehserle, according to documents filed by Carrethers’ lawyers. Mehserle allegedly responded by grabbing Carrethers from behind without warning and leg-sweeping him to the ground, at which time the four other officers “piled on” while punching and kicking Carrethers.

Carrethers was later transported to a local hospital, where he was treated for injuries.

Lawyers for BART counter by saying that the officers behaved reasonably considering Carrethers was antagonistic and threatening violence. Mehserle told Carrethers to move along, but he refused to comply and when he raised a fist at Mehserle, the officer detained him. Carrethers violently resisted arrest until he was handcuffed and placed in a leg restraint, according to BART’s attorneys.

The alleged incident with Carrethers took place about six weeks before Mehserle shot and killed Oscar Grant III on the platform of the Fruitvale BART station. Grant was unarmed at the time, and Mehserle was sentenced to two years in jail for involuntary manslaughter. He was released June 14 after serving one year.

The killing of Grant, who was black, by Mehserle, who is white, triggered protests and riots throughout the Bay Area.

“My client wants this trial so the public can see and hear the facts they didn’t get to see in the Oscar Grant case,” Dolan said. “He wants to show that what happened to Grant could have and should have been prevented.”

Following Grant’s death in 2009, the BART police department underwent a series of reforms, which included increased training hours for its officers and the hiring of a new police chief.

On July 3, two BART police officers shot and killed 45-year-old transient Charles Hill at the Civic Center station. That shooting also prompted protests.

Carrethers, who is black, filed his civil suit in March 2009, two months after the Jan. 1 death of Grant. BART Director Lynette Sweet said the agency tried to reach a settlement with Carrethers’ lawyers, but negotiations were unsuccessful.

Calls to Dale Allen, the lawyer representing BART in the case, were not returned Friday.

Johannes Mehserle and his legal issues

Nov. 15, 2008: BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle and four other BART officers allegedly punch, kick and hog-tie Kenneth Carrethers at the Oakland Coliseum BART station
Jan. 1, 2009: Oscar Grant III is shot by Mehserle at Oakland’s Fruitvale station
Jan. 7, 2009: A protest march in Oakland turns violent with vandalism, looting and arson
Jan. 13, 2009: Mehserle is arrested and charged with Grant’s murder
March 2009: Carrethers files civil lawsuit against Mehserle and four other BART officers
Dec. 15, 2009: The highly publicized trial for Grant’s killing is moved to Los Angeles
July 8, 2010: Jury convicts Mehserle of involuntary manslaughter, sparking more protests and rioting in Oakland
Nov. 5, 2010: Mehserle receives two-year sentence with credit for time served
June 14, 2011: Mehserle released from jail
Nov. 21, 2011: Jury selection to begin in Carrethers’ case

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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