The NAACP on Nov. 10 denounced the two-year jail sentence handed Johannes Mehserle, the former Oakland Bay Area Rapid Transit police Officer who killed unarmed Black civilian Oscar Grant in 2009.
“Although our communities unfortunately suffer many incidents of police abuse, most of them go unreported or unnoticed because no one is there to record and broadcast them,” NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous said in a statement. “In the end, the lack of nationally accepted best practices and standards on the use of force and the lack of law enforcement accountability undermines not only the integrity of law enforcement itself, but the safety of all our communities. Sadly, we see this to be true in the case of Oscar Grant.”
Judge Robert Perry in a Los Angeles court handed down the sentence on Nov. 5 after Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in July. He was acquitted of second-degree murder.
A gun enhancement that could have potentially added an additional 10 years to Mehserle’s sentence was thrown out because, Perry said, that there was no evidence that he intended to shoot Grant, according to San Francisco’s ABC 7. The former officer could have received up to 14 years, but he received two and was given credit for time he already served.
“He feels so sorry for the family; he apologized to them, to the public in the Bay Area,” Mehserle’s attorney, Michael Rains told ABC 7. “He said he knows that his case has set back relations between the law enforcement community and the community.”
Grant, 22, was shot and killed by Mehserle on an Oakland rail platform on New Year’s Day in 2009. According to BBC News.com, Mehserle and another officer attempted to subdue Grant after a fight and the former officer claimed that he saw Grant digging in his pocket and feared that he was armed. Mehserle told the court that he intended to subdue Grant with an electric Taser, but erroneously pulled out his handgun instead. He resigned from the police force shortly after the incident.
The killing, which was captured by numerous onlookers’ mobile phones, sparked a period of protest and violence in the area. Following the incident, officers reportedly made 83 arrests for acts of vandalism, police officer assault and failure to disperse.
Following Mehserle’s verdict in July, the Department of Justice announced that they would conduct an independent investigation following the state’s prosecution to determine if the evidence merits federal prosecution.
“The NAACP applauds the DOJ for this decision and we hope that their investigation will finally bring justice for Oscar Grant and his family,” Hilary Shelton, NAACP Washington Bureau Director and Senior Vice President for Advocacy said in a statement.