OAKLAND (CBS SF) — The family of Oscar Grant on Friday claimed that the Alameda County District Attorney’s office knows where one of the officers involved in Grant’s death is hiding from authorities.
In front of the Fruitvale BART station, where Grant was killed on New Year’s Day 2009, Grant’s mother and uncle used the 12th anniversary of his death to renew their call for murder charges to be brought against former BART Police officer Anthony Pirone.
Pirone and former officer Johannes Mehserle were both involved in the attempted arrest of Grant that led to his death. Only Mehserle, who shot Grant fatally in the back, faced charges. He was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2010.
Among those speaking at the press conference was former Black Panther Party chair Elaine Brown, who claimed Alameda District Attorney Nancy O’Malley knew where Pirone was located. Previously BART and other county officials said they didn’t know where he was.
“We contacted BART because they have been complicit,” Brown said. “They have covered up the murder right, we never knew anything about the exact things that Tony Pirone did.”
Attorney Charles Bonner backed Brown’s claim, saying O’Malley’s office admitted that they knew Pirone was in Long Beach, Calif.
“Why aren’t they arresting him?,” Bonner said.
Calls and emails to O’Malley’s office Friday were not answered.
Pirone became the focus of the family’s fight for justice in early 2019, when an unsealed internal investigation revealed that Pirone’s aggressive actions propelled the incident towards violence. He was also reported to use a chokehold similar to what a Minneapolis police officer used to kill George Floyd earlier this year.
“He actually crushed the bones in Oscar’s face,” Grant’s uncle Bobby Johnson said during the press conference.
O’Malley’s office announced the reopening of the investigation into Grant’s death back in October. Since then, the office has been silent on its progress and the family says they’re being told the statute of limitations is hindering the case.
“They say there’s a statute of limitations, which we know is bogus. This is murder,” Bonner said.
BART unsealed more documents from the internal investigation on Dec 18. Attorney John Burris, who is working on the case with Bonner, said during the press conference that he was concerned over some of the findings in the new documents. Among them, he found reports saying that when investigators interviewed Pirone, they asked him “softball questions.”
“My point of view: the DA dropped the ball here,” Burris said.
The press conference ended with Lateefah Simon, one of BART’s Board of Directors, discussing a resolution she plans to bring before her board supporting Grant’s family in pursuing murder charges for Pirone.
“No longer can elected officials fear what real justice looks like,” Simon said. “We ask the DA to do right by the spirit of this young man.”
The Grant family also held a “virtual vigil” on Zoom that started at noon Friday and featured a performance by soul singer and Grammy award winner Macy Gray.
Grant was 22-years-old when he was fatally shot in the back by Mehserle in the early hours of New Year’s Day, 2009. Grant’s family, on behalf of his daughter, sued BART over his death in 2011. The two parties settled for $2.8 million.