Oakland Waits For Verdict In BART Shooting Trial Jury deliberations are under way in the trial of a former Bay Area Rapid Transit officer accused of fatally shooting an unarmed man on a train platform in Oakland, Calif. The case of the white officer and the black victim has sparked racial tensions. The trial was moved to Los Angeles.
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Oakland Waits For Verdict In BART Shooting Trial

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Oakland Waits For Verdict In BART Shooting Trial

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Oakland Waits For Verdict In BART Shooting Trial

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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

Here in California, the city of Oakland nervously awaits a verdict in the racially charged trial of a former Bay Area transit policeman. The then- officer, who is white, is charged with fatally shooting, while on duty, an unarmed black man on New Year's Day 2009. Train passengers captured the incident on video. The police shooting stirred up emotions so much in Oakland, the trial was moved to Los Angeles. NPR's Richard Gonzales is following the case, which is now in the hands of the jury.

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RICHARD GONZALES: The videos show different angles of the same grim scene: Twenty-two-year-old Oscar Grant is being detained by police, suspected of having been in a fight. He's lying face down on a train platform. Former BART officer Johannes Mehserle is above him. And then, the gunshot.

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GONZALES: Grant's uncle, Cephus Johnson, agrees.

CEPHUS JOHNSON: It is our hope, as a family, again, that the jurors are looking at it from the perspective that I would look at from, and that is that it leads to second-degree murder.

GONZALES: Now Oakland police are on 12-hour shifts and have undergone riot training. A demonstration is planned for the evening of the verdict, but police Chief Anthony Batts is trying to talk down expectations of violence.

ANTHONY BATTS: We will deal with the individuals. We will not deal with the entire crowd. If you have individuals that are doing things that are dysfunctional or illegal, we will take action pretty quickly to resolve that.

GONZALES: Leslie Phillips is with the New Years Movement for Justice, a group formed in the wake of Oscar Grant's death.

LESLIE PHILLIPS: Police brutality is rampant in our community. There is hardly a single person in Oakland - especially a black person in Oakland - who hasn't been affected by police brutality. And when you add that up for generation upon generation, you can understand where that anger and that rage and that frustration comes from.

GONZALES: Yet for all the anger, there are many who believe violence would be another setback for the beleaguered city. This is resident Kelley Brock.

KELLEY BROCK: And the poor businesses in Oakland, those people do not deserve to have their businesses vandalized. And they haven't done anything. Oakland needs to step up and stop this. It's been going on for too long.

GONZALES: Back in Los Angeles, Oscar Grant's uncle, Cephus Johnson, says he hopes Oakland will remain calm.

JOHNSON: I have stated many times before: The family is of a nonviolent nature. And it is our belief that the activists that we have come to know, that have been supporting us, embracing us will demonstrate in a nonviolent nature. You know, that is our prayer and our wish.

GONZALES: Richard Gonzales, NPR News, Los Angeles.

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