21 May 2014
Five friends of Oscar Grant, the man who was fatally shot by a San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer, have reached a deal to settle a federal lawsuit against the agency, officials said.
Jack Bryson Jr, Nigel Bryson, Michael Greer, Carlos Reyes and Fernando Anicete Jr will split $175,000 as part of the settlement reached late last month, their attorney John Burris said Tuesday.
The Bart board approved the settlement 8May, Bart spokeswoman Alicia Trost said Wednesday.
The men filed a federal civil rights lawsuit for $1.5m in 2009 claiming excessive force and illegal detainment. Burris said Tuesday that the men are relieved the case is over.
“This closes a very traumatic and tragic chapter for these young men,” he said. “Unfortunately, they will never get over witnessing their friend’s death.”
Trost said the settlement closes the case for a “considerably smaller amount compared to what would have been a long and costly trial if allowed to move forward”.
The five men were detained on Bart’s Fruitvale Station platform in Oakland along with Grant, who was shot and killed by then-Bart police officer Johannes Mehserle.
The New Year’s Day 2009 shooting was recorded by bystanders and within hours posted online showing Mehserle, who is white, firing a bullet into the back of Grant, who was black, as he lay face-down after being pulled off a train supposedly for fighting.
Mehserle tearfully testified he meant to use his stun gun instead of his .40-caliber pistol. But the shooting sparked debate, racial tensions and protests that occasionally turned violent. Mehserle was later convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
The shooting and the last day of Grant’s life were depicted in the movie, Fruitvale Station. The film won both jury and audience awards at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
Grant’s mother, Wanda Johnson, and Grant’s young daughter, Tatiana, also received financial settlements from Bart totaling $2.8m as a result of the shooting.
The shooting also led to major reforms within the 200-member Bart police department. An independent auditor reported last year that the department had since made significant progress.