OAKLAND (CBS / AP / BCN) — A transit police officer who was fired after an investigation by a law firm determined she had lied about details of the fatal shooting of an unarmed man by her colleague will get her job back, an arbitrator ruled Friday.
Bay Area Rapid Transit officer Marysol Domenici, who was fired in March, will be reinstated without any restrictions and with full back pay, said arbitrator William Riker of San Francisco.
KCBS’ Bob Butler Reports:
“She has been vindicated,” Domenici’s attorney, Alison Berry Wilkinson, said. “She has her reputation back. This restores her integrity.”
Domenici’s dismissal came several months after a report by Meyers Nave, a law firm hired by the transit agency, recommended firing her and fellow officer Tony Pirone, who is also seeking reinstatement.
The agency said Domenici, 30, was untruthful in her statements to transit investigators and during her testimony at a preliminary hearing last year for the officer later convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting.
Domenici testified that victim Oscar Grant and his friends swore at her and didn’t obey her orders to sit down moments before the shooting. Domenici said she became fearful amid taunts by Grant, his friends and passengers on the train.
“If they would’ve followed orders, this wouldn’t have happened,” Domenici testified. “They probably would’ve just been cited and released.”
Riker ruled there was no basis to find Domenici was not telling the truth, and the law firm’s report “was not a full and complete investigation of Officer Domenici’s actions.”
Wilkinson said the report was flawed and contained speculation, innuendo and “some things that were outright false.”
The transit agency issued a statement saying, “BART must abide by today’s labor arbitrator ruling to reinstate Officer Marysol Domenici. Under the union contract, an arbitrator has the final say in this case.”
However, the agency said, “BART believes we did the right thing in acting on the independent internal affairs investigation’s recommendation to terminate her employment. The arbitrator made a different decision and it is now out of our hands.”
The ruling also requires Domenici to undergo a fitness-for-duty evaluation before returning to her job of nearly six years.
On Friday, Domenici was graduating from a Bay Area firefighting academy but will return as a transit officer sometime in mid-January, her attorney said.
Domenici and Pirone were the first officers to respond to an alleged fight on a train moments before Grant was fatally shot by then-officer Johannes Mehserle on Jan. 1, 2009.
Mehserle said he mistakenly thought he was pulling out his stun gun instead of his firearm when he shot Grant.
The incident was video-recorded by bystanders and shown on the Internet, sparking racial tensions and unrest. The videos were subsequently used as evidence.
Last month, Mehserle was sentenced to the minimum possible sentence of two years in prison after being convicted in Los Angeles. With time already served, he could be released in about seven months.
Grant’s family attorney John Burris said he was not surprised by Domenici’s reinstatement. The ruling does not affect his client’s civil suit against her, Pirone, Mehserle and Bay Area Rapid Transit, he said.
“In the overall scheme of things, Domenici’s a minor player. She was called on the carpet for lying and grossly exaggerating the scene as the videos showed,” Burris said.
Wilkinson said Domenici plans no action against the transit agency.
“She’s been through a lot of pain,” the attorney said. “It’s not easy having people accuse you of lying.”
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