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