Bay Area Transit Officer Convicted In Killing Released From LA Jail

CBS San Francisco
CBC San Francisco

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Protesters are expected in downtown Los Angeles after a white former San Francisco Bay area transit officer convicted in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man was released from jail early Monday after serving less than a year of a two-year sentence.

Johannes Mehserle, 29, was released at 12:01 a.m.from the Los Angeles County's Twin Towers jail, according to L.A. County sheriff's officials.

Mehserle, 29, was convicted on July 8, 2010 of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of Oscar Grant, 22, on a Bay Area Rapid Transit train station platform in Oakland on New Year's Day 2009.

He was sentenced in November to two years in prison after being convicted in a downtown L.A. courtroom. The trial was moved to the Southland from the bay area after much pre-trial publicity. The case sparked racial tensions in San Francisco.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry ruled Friday that with time-served and good-conduct credits, Mehserle must be released Monday, 11 months into a two year sentence.

The Los Angeles Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant announced that activists and members of Grant's family would rally outside the criminal courts building on West Temple Street starting at 8 a.m. Monday to protest Mehserle's release.

They will then march to the U.S Justice Department office on North Spring Street to demand that federal charges be brought against Mehserle, a coalition statement said.

Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, rather than the murder charge sought by prosecutors. During his trial, Mehserle tearfully testified that he mistakenly grabbed his gun instead of his Taser stun weapon while trying to subdue Grant.

Mehserle told jurors that he wound up firing one shot into Grant's back.

"I remember the pop," the ex-transit officer said. "It wasn't very loud. It wasn't like a gunshot — and I remember thinking the (Taser) had malfunctioned."

Mehserle testified that he looked down and "saw I had my gun in my hand" and that "it shouldn't have been there."