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Killed BART rider was face-down on platform when shot in back

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    Published Sunday, January 4, 2009, by the San Francisco Chronicle BART rider belly-down when shot, lawyer says By Bob Egelko Chronicle Staff Writer The
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 5, 2009
      Published Sunday, January 4, 2009, by the San Francisco Chronicle

      BART rider belly-down when shot, lawyer says

      By Bob Egelko
      Chronicle Staff Writer

      The 22-year-old man killed by a BART police officer early New Year's
      Day was lying face-down on the train platform, his hands behind him
      waiting to be cuffed, when he was shot in the back, a lawyer newly
      hired by the man's family said Saturday.

      Attorney John Burris said in an interview that a number of witnesses
      to the shooting at the Fruitvale Station in Oakland have told him
      Oscar Grant was posing no threat to the officer or anyone else when
      he was fatally wounded. The shooting occurred around 2:15 a.m.
      after police responded to a report of a fight on a train bound for
      Dublin/Pleasanton.

      "If it happened the way the (witnesses) said it happened, he's on his
      stomach, his hands pulled up behind his back, he's compliant, the
      officer is standing over him and all of a sudden he shoots," Burris
      said. "The bullet went through his lower back, hit the ground and
      ricocheted through the upper part of his body."

      The witnesses told him police handcuffed Grant after he was shot, but
      removed the cuffs just before news reporters arrived, Burris said. No
      weapons were found on Grant or anyone else involved in the altercation
      on the train.

      Grant, of Hayward, died at Highland Hospital in Oakland several hours
      later. BART officials say the officer who shot him, a BART police
      officer for almost two years, has been placed on administrative
      leave during an investigation. He has not been publicly identified.

      Burris, who has filed numerous suits against police, said he has been
      hired by the mother of Grant's 4-year-old daughter and would discuss
      their plans at a news conference today.

      BART spokesman Jim Allison said the transit system has not yet
      received the results of an autopsy performed Friday by the Alameda
      County coroner's office. He said investigators have not reached any
      conclusions yet on questions surrounding the incident, including why
      the officer drew his gun and whether the shooting was deliberate or
      accidental.

      "Officers are trained to unholster that weapon only when there is a
      perceived possibility that there is a need for deadly force," Allison
      said. "They're also trained to keep their finger off the trigger
      until the very moment they would be required to shoot for their own
      or another's safety."

      Burris said he doesn't see how the shooting could be considered
      accidental.

      "He had the gun out, had the finger on the trigger," Burris said.
      "In order for the gun to go off, he had to pull the trigger. It looks
      like an intentional act. The gun was not defective, as far as I know."

      The incident "has all the earmarks of manslaughter or a second-degree
      murder case," the lawyer said. BART officials said earlier that the
      case is already under investigation by the Alameda County district
      attorney's office.

      Burris also said witnesses told him that the fight on the train was
      apparently between Grant and an older man he hadn't previously met.
      For unknown reasons, he said, the two men shouted at each other, then
      grabbed and wrestled with one another, and continued grappling when
      the train reached Fruitvale.

      Burris said BART police stopped the fight and took Grant and several
      others into custody. Officers were armed with stun guns as well as
      pistols, Burris said, and a witness said Grant cried out, as he lay
      on the platform, "Please don't Tase me, I have a 4-year-old daughter."

      BART spokesmen have said several people were detained for questioning
      but no one was arrested. But Burris said five people who were with
      Grant have told him they were held in handcuffs for five hours before
      being released without charges.

      "That's a long time to be detained" and should be considered an
      arrest, he said.


      E-mail Bob Egelko at begelko@...
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