National Civil Rights Group Demands Immediate Arrest of Suspect in Oscar Grant Shooting
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
U.S. and California Departments of Justice Urged to Wrest Investigation from District Attorney
ColorOfChange.org called on California Attorney General Jerry Brown today to take over the investigation of the New Year's Eve shooting of 22-year-old Oscar Grant and to immediately arrest the transit police officer who killed Grant.
The Oakland-based organization has called on its more than 450,000 members nationwide to sign an open letter demanding that Brown do what Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff has not: arrest Johannes Mehserle and launch an aggressive, independent investigation worthy of the public's confidence.
"Anyone else caught on video shooting a defenseless man in the back would be in jail by now," said James Rucker, executive director of ColorOfChange.org. "It's been more than 10 days, and this killer is still free to walk the streets. The Alameda County District Attorney is failing the public and failing Oscar Grant."
Damning video evidence that has circulated online since the murder shows Mehserle shooting Grant at close range while Grant lay face down on a subway platform. Multiple videos clearly show that the shooting was unprovoked and unnecessary.
Mehserle has refused to talk to prosecutors and resigned from the BARTpolice force rather than face the agency's investigators. The Alameda County District Attorney, whose office could not remember prosecuting a fatal police-involved shooting in at least two decades, has said it will take weeks before he can decide whether to bring charges.
The group noted that California's Constitution directs the Attorney General to prosecute crimes that are ignored at the county level.
"Whenever in the opinion of the Attorney General any law of the State is not being adequately enforced in any county, it shall be the duty of the Attorney General to prosecute any violations of law of which the superior court shall have jurisdiction, and in such cases the Attorney General shall have all the powers of a district attorney," Article V, section 13 of the state's Constitution reads. "When required by the public interest or directed by the Governor, the Attorney General shall assist any district attorney in the discharge of the duties of that office."
Brown announced Saturday that he was placing a staffer in the Alameda County District Attorney's office to observe the investigation. But ColorOfChange.org argued Tuesday that Brown should order Mehserle arrested immediately and take over the investigation given the clarity of evidence in the case, the need for public confidence, and the Alameda County District Attorney's history of inaction in officer-involved shootings.
In addition to calling on California's Attorney General to arrest Mehserle and take over the investigation, ColorOfChange.org members are signing on to a letter urging the U.S. Department of Justice to launch its own independent investigation.
With nearly half a million members, ColorOfChange.org is the largest African-American online political organization in the country.
ColorOfChange.org's letters to California's Attorney General and the US Department of Justice can be found here:
ColorOfChange.org's message to its members can be found here: