BART cop's defense claims Taser mistaken for gun
Stephen C. Webster
Published: Saturday January 31, 2009
Shooter's bail set at $3 million as protest flares in Oakland; Outside agency taking over investigation
According to files released Friday, Johannes Mehserle, the Bay Area Rapid Transit officer who shot and killed 22-year-old Oscar Grant on New Year's Day, told a fellow officer he planned to shock Grant with his Taser, not shoot him.
During a crowded Friday hearing, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Morris Jacobson set Mehserle's bail at $3 million.
"That is the type of bail that will go a long ways toward ensuring future appearances in court," said the judge.Also on Friday, it was announced that an outside agency would take over the shooting investigation, displacing BART Police Chief Gary Gee after he circulated a memo describing how BART employees might go about sending money and material comforts to Mehserle.
"It is unacceptable for the police chief, who ostensibly is investigating Mehserle and other officers ... To encourage officers to visit and make financial contributions to Mehserle," said John Burris, who represents Oscar Grant's family.
Judge Jacobson said he set Mehserle's bail so high because he believes the officer gave an "inconsistent story." He went so far as to say the defendant might "make up a story to avoid the consequences of his actions."
"Jacobson said Mehserle told fellow BART police officers that he was going to use a Taser on Grant, a 22-year-old Hayward man, but after Mehserle shot Grant he told a colleague, 'I thought he had a gun,'" reports San Francisco's KTVU.
The court documents, which contain statements from fellow BART officers present during the shooting, indicate that Mehserle had intended to use a Taser on Grant.
"I'm going to taze him, I'm going to taze him," Mehserle said, according to Officer Tony Pirone. "I can't get his arms. He won't give me his arms. His hands are going for his waistband."
Immediately after the shot, Pirone claims Mehserle said, "Tony, I thought he was going for a gun."