The Upshot

Oakland cop apologizes for killing transit rider

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Johannes Mehserle, the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) cop convicted on Thursday of involuntary manslaughter for killing an unarmed transit rider, has released a statement apologizing for the crime.

"I have and will continue to live everyday of my life knowing that [Oscar] Grant should not have been shot," Mehserle wrote. "For now, and forever I will live, breathe, sleep, and not sleep with the memory of Mr. Grant screaming 'You shot me' and putting my hands on the bullet wound thinking the pressure would help while I kept telling him 'You'll be okay!' "

The statement was handwritten and dated July 4 but was just released by Mehserle's lawyer today.

Oscar Grant was shot in the back while lying face-down in a subway station on New Year's Day, 2009.

According to NPR, more than 80 people were arrested in the area for rioting after Mehserle was convicted yesterday. The case has stoked racial tensions in Oakland and has been compared to the 1992 verdict that came in the wake of the videotaped police beating of Los Angeles motorist Rodney King.

Grant's family is outraged that the conviction was for involuntary manslaughter. That conviction carries less jail time for Mehserle than he would have received for a full manslaughter conviction,  NBC's local affiliate reports. The Justice Department's civil rights division announced today that it plans to look into the case.

Cell-phone recordings made by fellow transit riders show that Mehserle drew his weapon and shot Grant in the back when Grant was on the floor with his hands behind his back. In the trial, Mehserle said he thought he was pulling out his taser but instead pulled out his gun. He said he saw Grant reach into a pocket and was worried he had a weapon.

"I don't expect that I can ever convince some individuals how sorry I am for the death of Mr. Grant," he wrote.

Here's the full text of the letter:

Mike -

Please try to get this message to the public:

I don't know what the jury in this case is going to decide, but I hope those who hate me and those who understand that I never intended to shoot Oscar Grant will listen to this message.

I have and will continue to live everyday of my life knowing that Mr. Grant should not have been shot. I know a daughter has lost a father and a mother has lost a son. It saddens me knowing that my actions cost Mr. Grant his life, no words express how truly sorry I am.

I hoped to talk to Ms. Johnson and Ms. Mesa in the days following this terrible event, but death threats toward my newly-born son, my friends and family resulted in no communication occurring. I hope the day will come when anger will give way to dialogue.

For now, and forever I will live, breathe, sleep, and not sleep with the memory of Mr. Grant screaming "You shot me" and putting my hands on the bullet wound thinking the pressure would help while I kept telling him "You'll be okay!"

I tried to tell myself that maybe this shot would not be so serious, but I recall how sick I felt when Mr. Grant stopped talking, closed his eyes and seemed to stop breathing. I don't expect that I can ever convince some individuals how sorry I am for the death of Mr. Grant, but I would not feel right if I didn't explain my thoughts as I wait for a decision of the jury.

Johannes Mehserle 7-4-2010

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