OAKLAND, Calif. – The pending release of a former San Francisco transit police officer after serving part of a two-year sentence for killing an unarmed black passenger has drawn protests, with hundreds of people rallying in downtown Oakland to show their anger.
Johannes Mehserle was expected to be set free from a Los Angeles County jail sometime Monday, after serving 11 months. He did his time there after his high-profile trial was moved to Southern California for safety concerns, last year.
Mehserle, 29, was convicted last July of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of Grant, 22, on a Bay Area Rapid Transit train station platform in Oakland on New Year's Day 2009.
Grant's uncle, Cephus "Bobby" Johnson, was waiting outside the L.A. County jail late Sunday night for Mehserle's release.
"There's much rage in our community," he said. "It's a shame that our children still have fear from police officers that come into our communities."
Mehserle's attorney, Michael Rains, has declined to comment on his client's pending release. Rains recently said in published reports that Mehserle is ready to move on with his life.
On Sunday, about 300 protesters on Sunday held a fairly peaceful demonstration in downtown Oakland as they vented their continued frustration over Grant's fatal shooting.
"The people know it was wrong," said Jabari Shaw, 32, a protester who had also attended Mehserle's trial. "As much as we want justice, we're still not getting it."
The shooting was recorded by bystanders, and video posted online showed the officer firing a bullet into the back of Grant as he lay face down after being pulled off a train, suspected of fighting.
Facing a second-degree murder charge and a maximum 14 years in prison, Mehserle tearfully testified at his trial that he meant to use his stun gun instead of his .40-caliber pistol.
Jurors found that while Mehserle didn't mean to kill Grant, his behavior was so negligent that it was criminal.
The shooting continues to spark debate, racial tension and occasional protests that have turned violent. Last fall, more than 150 people were arrested in Oakland hours after Mehserle's sentencing.
On Sunday, the protesters first gathered at the train station where Grant was killed carrying signs as "Jail Killer Cops," and chanting, "We are all Oscar Grant!" Some protesters carried a mock casket symbolizing Grant's death as they marched downtown.
One person was arrested for spray painting graffiti, police said.
Grant supporters in Los Angeles on Monday plan to march to the U.S. Attorney's office and demand that the Department of Justice look into possible federal civil rights violation.
A civil lawsuit against Mehserle and several other officers involved with Grant's shooting is still pending.
Grant's family attorney, John Burris, on Sunday urged the Oakland crowd before their march downtown to remain peaceful as they exercised their freedom of speech.
"There's still an opportunity for all of us to continue our sense of outrage, our sense of frustration at the (criminal justice) system and do what we can through public speaking, through organizing, community involvement to continue his legacy," Burris said.
The protest ended shortly after 7 p.m. as police stood watch over a lingering crowd.
"I can't tell you what to do, but I strongly suggest that you start to disburse," Cat Brooks, a protest co-organizer, told the crowd.
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