California train station shooting witnesses say they didn't see passenger resist officers
LOS ANGELES – LOS ANGELES (AP) — An unarmed black man shot and killed by a transit officer in Oakland didn't resist or fight with police, witnesses who took video of the chaotic scene testified Friday.
Jamil Dewar, 17, turned away from a large television screen and began crying after hearing the gunshot that killed Oscar Grant on a video Dewar had recorded on his cell phone. As jurors were led out of the courtroom for their lunch break, Dewar's mother sped past Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies and consoled her son. Dewar stared intently at Johannes Mehserle, 28, who has pleaded not guilty to killing Grant while he lay on a Bay Area Rapid Transit platform on New Year's Day 2009.
It was the first visible emotions at the trial moved from Alameda County to Los Angeles because of violence sparked by racial tensions and intense media coverage. Mehserle resigned shortly after the shooting.
Dewar said he and Grant were part of a group of about 10 friends who went to San Francisco to watch fireworks but ended up missing the show. On the way home, Grant was involved in a "tussle" with another person aboard the train, he said. Another passenger reported the fight and transit officers responded to the Fruitvale station.
Dewar said his friends helped separate Grant and the other man upon arriving at the station, but the man tried to egg Grant to fight some more. The group kept walking but were met with "a lot of angry faces," Dewar said. He and another friend went back onto the train.
One of those faces was then-transit officer Tony Pirone, who pointed a Taser gun into the train and then grabbed another friend by the back of his head and pushed him off, Dewar said.
"I started recording because I never seen anything like this," he said.
The shaky videotape shows officers crowded around Grant and several other friends as Dewar shouts at officers to get out of the way so he can get a better angle. After the gunshot, someone yells "You shot my cousin!" Grant and Dewar aren't related but childhood friends. Dewar said he considered Grant like a brother.
Four other passengers, three of whom videotaped the spectacle, all testified Friday that Mehserle looked stunned after he shot Grant.
"He had a surprised look on his face," said Daniel Liu.
Those observations lend some credence to the defense's contention that Mehserle intended to pull out his Taser stun gun instead of his .40-caliber handgun.
Liu added that it appeared Grant and his friends would cooperate with officers at times and then stand up and talk to them. In one clip, Pirone is seen hitting Grant as he rises to his feet. Liu, who is heard on the tape uttering a profanity, described Pirone's actions as "rough shaking and punching."
Pirone was not charged and is no longer a transit officer.
Karina Vargas said she didn't see Grant resist or fight with the officers during the ordeal. Vargas testified she stood about 10 to 15 feet away on the platform as Mehserle tried to handcuff Grant.
She said she heard Grant say, "Don't tase me, man."
"To me, it looked like he was cooperating from where I was standing," Vargas testified.
Grant's statement may be in response to what defense attorney Michael Rains said his client told Pirone moments before the shooting.
"I'm going to tase him," Rains said during opening statements Thursday.
Also seen on the recording made by Vargas is a young man who approaches one of the transit officers and throws something in his direction. The officer turns away to shield himself. Dewar testified one of his friends threw the phone to distract the officers.
Vargas and Tommy Cross, who shot his video from the train, said they were compelled to turn their cameras on because Pirone was acting aggressively toward the group of young men.
"I feel as if the officers had no reason to restrain any of the individuals," Cross said.
Grant is seen on the Cross video getting up and Pirone reacts by what appears to be thrusting a knee into Grant's chest. Observers watching on the train are riled up and began yelling at the officers.
After Grant is shot and the train doors close, passengers sound like they are in disbelief.
"Everyone was shocked, confused," Cross said. "We just heard the shot, piecing things together. We had no idea what happened."