OAKLAND (CBS SF) — After a meeting with Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley Wednesday, members of Oscar Grant’s family said that they have been promised a “robust and transparent” investigation into charging former BART police officer Anthony Pirone in Grant’s 2009 death.
Members of Grant’s family spoke to the media on the steps of the Alameda County Courthouse in Oakland following their meeting with O’Malley. While there has not been an official statement from the District Attorney’s Office Wednesday, the family indicated there were some positive signs during the meeting.
“We’re cautiously optimistic about our meeting in the room and investigative aspect of … the journey we’re about to go on in terms of holding Tony Pirone responsible for the murder of Oscar Grant,” Cephus Johnson, also known as Grant’s Uncle Bobby after the meeting. “We’re clear on some of the naysayers’ statements concerning why this case was reopened.”
Grant’s mother Wanda Johnson then addressed the gathered reporters.
“I want to start out by saying justice delayed is justice denied and that we have been denied the justice that we deserve for eleven years now,” said Wanda Johnson. “When Oscar was first killed, the actions of the officers was not hidden. It was shown on video and at that time, he should have been charged.”
Grant’s mother said they still expected a charge against Pirone, regardless of the statute of limitations.
“From the meeting today, we are clear that, yes, there is a job that has to be done, but if it is done fairly and correctly, the officer will be charged. I stand today declaring that Oscar did not die in vain. He has been a catalyst for a movement,” his mother said. “The officer who took part and instigated should be held accountable for his actions.”
“Definitely there has been a promise of a robust, thorough and transparent investigation,” added Cephus Johnson. “One concern that we’ve had has been the transparency of the investigation and the communication being established.”
Earlier this month, O’Malley announced that her office would reopen its investigation into the fatal 2009 BART Police shooting of Oscar Grant.
That announcement on October 5th came as Grant’s family called for the district attorney’s office to revisit the case “in the wake of renewed international attention to the murders of Black men, women, children, and most notably the recent torturous killing of George Floyd.”
“We have listened closely to the requests of the family of Oscar Grant,” O’Malley’s Oct. 5th statement read. “The murder of Oscar Grant greatly impacted the county and the state. My Office conducted the intensive investigation that led to the prosecution of BART Officer Johannes Mehserle for the crime of Murder. The trial occurred in Los Angeles due to a change of venue ordered by the court on the motion of the defense.
“Unfortunately, the Los Angeles jury only found Officer Mehserle guilty of Involuntary Manslaughter,” the statement continued. “We are re-opening our investigation. I have assigned a team of lawyers to look back into the circumstances that caused the death of Oscar Grant. We will evaluate the evidence and the law, including the applicable law at the time and the statute of limitations and make a determination.”
In a press release, the Grant family noted that George Floyd was killed beneath the knee of Officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis, using the same technique that was used on Grant moments before he was fatally shot to death by BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle.
While Mehserle pulled the trigger, the family noted in the release that it was BART Police Officer Anthony Pirone “who created the climate of violence, pinned Oscar down with a knee on his neck, fracturing bones in Oscar’s face” in addition to using racial epithets against Grant.
A 2009 report on the case by former Oakland City Attorney Jayne Williams and then-attorney Kimberly Colwell of the law firm Meyers Nave found that Pirone, who knelt on Grant’s back and pinned him to the ground, “started a cascade of events that ultimately led to the shooting of Grant.”
The report argued, “Officer Pirone’s overly aggressive and unreasonable actions and conduct in violation of policy and acceptable standards contributed substantially to the escalation of the hostile and volatile atmosphere during the course of the incident.”
So far, there has been no word from the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office on a possible timeline for the investigation into charging Pirone.
In September, O’Malley’s office charged a San Leandro police officer with voluntary manslaughter in the fatal shooting of a man wielding a baseball bat inside a Walmart store last April.