OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Two BART directors and an Oakland City Councilmember condemned Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley Tuesday for deciding not to pursue charges against former BART police officer Anthony Pironein the Jan. 1, 2009 death of Oscar Grant.
BART directors Bevan Dufty and Lateefah Simon and Councilmember Loren Taylor held a Tuesday morning news conference along with Grant’s family to speak out against O’Malley’s decision in the case.
The Oakland City Council and the BART Board are both scheduled to vote this week on resolutions urging O’Malley to reconsider and charge Pirone with felony murder.
“We condemn the decision of the district attorney not to proceed with these charges,” Dufty said. “There is no question that this murder would not have happened without the actions of Officer Tony Pirone. There is simply no question.”
Simon called O’Malley’s decision a failure to do her job.
“Nancy O’Malley has failed yet again to do her job and that job was to insure equally justice under the law,” Simon said. “Only through the recently unsealed report we have mentioned here do we know that Officer Pirone was in fact the aggressor when Oscar was murdered. Pirone was found to have lied repeatedly, use unreasonable and unnecessary force.”
A spokesperson for O’Malley said her office did not have any additional response to Tuesday’s news conference beyond its statement Monday.
Taylor said he and fellow council members Carroll Fife, Treva Reid and Nikki Fortunato Bas plan to introduce a resolution at Tuesday’s City Council meeting imploring O’Malley to charge Pirone for his role in the shooting.
“We will never reimagine public safety if bad actors are never held to account for their crimes,” Taylor said.
Grant’s mother, the Rev. Wanda Johnson, argued that O’Malley’s job is not to be impartial toward issues like police brutality that disproportionately affect people of color.
“You have an obligation and a duty to do what is right,” Johnson said in reference to O’Malley. “And because you are failing to do what is right, Oscar’s blood is on your hands, Nancy O’Malley.”
O’Malley’s office issued a 16-page report on Monday that detailed the investigation into Pirone’s action on the night Grant lost his life.
In the report’s conclusion, it stated that the law “makes clear that Anthony Pirone can be guilty of murder only if he personally killed Mr. Grant, or if he aided and abetted the actual killer. In fact, Pirone neither killed nor aided and abetted Mr. Mehserle, who actually killed Mr. Grant.”
The conclusion also noted that the autopsy report on Grant gave no indication that the victim suffered from a head or neck injury that contributed to his death from Pirone placing a knee on Grant’s neck prior to the fatal shooting by Mehserle.
- Read the Alameda County District Attorney’s report on the investigation into Anthony Pirone’s involvement in Grant’s death
Grant died early New Year’s Day 2009 after being shot in the back while laying on his stomach on the BART Fruitvale Station platform. Only former officer Johannes Mehserle has been charged in connection to his death.
Mehserle was tried and convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2010. A judge sentenced Mehserle to two years in jail minus time served, and Mehserle was paroled after 11 months.
O’Malley and other representatives from her office met with the Grant family on Monday to discuss the conclusions of the investigation.
Grant’s family has been calling for Pirone to be charged after a report from an internal affairs investigation was unsealed in 2019.
The report claimed that Pirone’s actions were “aggressive and unreasonable” and noted that he used a racial epithet against Grant when he was being detained. Pirone also at one point knelt on Grant’s neck as the officers struggled with him on the BART platform.
Attorneys for the Grant family had asked O’Malley to file felony murder charges against Pirone. With the passing of California Senate Bill 1437 in 2018, defendants can be charged with felony murder for aiding and abetting a killing.
Grant’s family on Monday maintained its position that Mehserle would never have been in a position to fire the fatal shot in the first place had it not been for Pirone.
“I’m not asking for different than what our US Constitution says or what our laws say,” said Grant’s mother, the Rev. Wanda Johnson on Monday. “I’m asking for him to be charged for his actions leading up to my son’s death. If it was myself who had done those things, I would definitely be in jail or prison.”