Prosecution Rests In People V. Mehserle
Fights on trains aren't unusual when it's New Years Eve, a Bay Area Rapid Transit train operator told a downtown Los Angeles courtroom Monday morning.
"You get crowds, hot lunches, and fights...that's just the norm," said Keecha Williams.
But in the early morning hours of January 1, 2009, a police officer fatally shot an unarmed 22-year-old on a BART station platform. The police were responding to complaints about a fight on Williams' train.
Multiple passengers caught the shooting on videos that have since gone viral.
Because of the attention the case received in the Bay Area, the trial was moved to Downtown Los Angeles.
On Monday, the seventh day of the murder trial, the prosecution rested their case against Johannes Mehserle, the 28-year-old former BART Police Department officer charged with fatally shooting 22-year-old Oscar Grant.
The defense claims that Mehserle grabbed his gun by accident, when he was actually reaching for his Taser. Alameda County prosecutor David R. Stein contends that the shooting was no accident.
Williams, the BART operator, testified Monday that she originally stopped her train at the Fruitvale Station because she received intercom calls from passengers about a fight.
After she stopped the train, she said a young man on board asked her if the police were coming. When she nodded "yes," the young man left with a small group, Williams said.
But on their way out, the group was stopped by Anthony Pirone, a former BART Police Department officer.
Williams said she saw Pirone detain the group by sitting them in a corner on the station platform. She said Pirone then approached her to ask what the problem was.
"'Some BS,'" Williams recalled responding.
She said Pirone never asked whether the group he detained was the same group that was involved in the fight.
This contradicts Pirone's own testimony from last week, in which he claimed that Williams told him the people he detained were the same people involved in the fight.
Williams said she waited in the station with her door open, because she could not close the doors without permission from her superiors. Then, she heard people yelling and hooting. So she looked out the window of her cabin.
From her vantage point, she said she saw Pirone jabbing his arms out toward the wall. "He was fighting somebody," Williams said, but she couldn't see who the other person was. She did not see Mehserle, she said.
"I got intercom calls from a female asking me to close the doors because she didn't want to get shot," Williams said. "Seconds later, I heard a gunshot."
Passengers then spilled out of the train onto the platform, she said. "It was just mayhem."
Defense Attorney Michael Rains will begin calling witnesses tomorrow.
Cephus Johnson, the victim's uncle, said he is mostly satisfied with the work that the prosecuting attorney did throughout the trial so far.
"I just believe that Stein's doing the best that he can," Johnson said. "The video made his case."