LOS ANGELES – LOS ANGELES (AP) — A defense attorney for a former Bay Area transit police officer accused of killing an unarmed black man is expected to call another police officer on Tuesday who will recount how the man resisted arrest during a traffic stop four years ago.
Attorney Michael Rains will begin presenting his case after prosecutors wrapped up their case against Johannes Mehserle on Monday.
Mehserle, who is white, has pleaded not guilty to murder for the New Year's Day 2009 shooting death of Oscar Grant, who is black. The trial was moved to Los Angeles because of intense media coverage and racial friction.
Mehserle is shown on videos taken by several train passengers shooting Grant, 22, in the back while he's face down. Rains has argued that his client meant to use his Taser stun gun as he tried to subdue Grant instead of pulling out his .40-caliber handgun.
In his opening statement, Rains said Mehserle told fellow BART officer Tony Pirone before the shooting, "Tony, Tony, Tony, I can't get his hands. I'm going to tase him."
Prosecutors have said Mehserle, 28, intended to shoot Grant, and that he used his weapon because officers were losing control of the situation. However, Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Dave Stein didn't appear to present much direct evidence that shows Mehserle intentionally shot Grant.
Stein called 26 witnesses during the presentation of his case.
Pirone testified Friday that after the shooting, Mehserle approached him on the train platform and told him, "Tony, I thought he was going for a gun."
Jurors have heard plenty about Pirone, the first officer that responded to the Fruitvale station after there was a report about a fight aboard a train.
Some witnesses said in testimony that Pirone was aggressive toward Grant and several of his friends who were detained by officers. The testimony illustrated for jurors escalating tensions for other officers, including Mehserle, who arrived a short time later.
The defense's first witness will be a San Leandro police officer who will recount how in 2006 Grant ran from officers and resisted arrest. Grant was shot with a stun gun, according to a police report.
Authorities said Grant was carrying a gun and tried to get rid of it during the foot pursuit. A .380 pistol was found about 20 feet from the site of the arrest, and Grant was later sentenced to 16 months in state prison for a gun possession charge.
Among other potential witnesses who may be called to testify are several of Grant's friends and a forensic image analyst who will give his opinion to what is seen on the videos.