OAKLAND (CBS SF) – A federal civil rights trial involving accusations that former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle used excessive force in a November 2008 incident in Oakland is set to begin in San Francisco on Tuesday.
The incident happened just weeks before Mehserle fatally shot Oscar Grant III at BART’s Fruitvale station on New Year’s Day in 2009.
The plaintiff, Kenneth Carrethers, is accusing Mehserle and other BART officers of assaulting him on Nov. 15, 2008, at the agency’s Coliseum/Oakland Airport station and is seeking damages.
According to court documents filed by Carrethers’ attorneys, he was returning home from work and made a remark about the laziness and incompetence of BART police, saying his car had recently been broken into near the station.
The attorneys wrote in the civil complaint that Carrethers was then approached by Mehserle and another officer and, after a verbal exchange, he began to walk away and was allegedly tackled from behind by Mehserle.
Three other officers assisted Mehserle, and Carrethers was arrested on suspicion of threatening Mehserle and resisting arrest, according to the complaint.
When he was being taken to a hospital for treatment, Carrethers’ attorneys said, Mehserle allegedly asked Carrethers if “he had learned not to mess with police.”
Attorneys for Mehserle and the four other officers named in the lawsuit wrote in a response to the complaint that Carrethers had assaulted Mehserle and the officers merely defended themselves.
“Any damages or injuries suffered by (the) plaintiff were occasioned by his own wrongful acts,” wrote attorney Dale Allen, who is representing Mehserle, Frederick Guanzon, Keith Smith, Douglas Horner and Robert Haney, as well as BART, which is also listed as a defendant in the case.
The charges against Carrethers were dismissed by the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office in February 2009.
The civil case was delayed after Mehserle’s arrest for shooting Grant, who was unarmed, on the platform of BART’s Fruitvale station on Jan. 1, 2009.
Mehserle resigned a week after the shooting and, in a highly publicized trial, he admitted to shooting Grant but said he had meant to use his Taser and fired his gun by mistake.
He was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and served about a year of a two-year prison term before being released in June.
Mehserle is expected to testify in the civil trial, which was beginning jury selection in U.S. District Court in San Francisco this morning. The trial is expected to start Tuesday.
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