California transit authority settles civil rights lawsuit

Madeleine Thomas

By Madeleine Thomas

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A California transit agency has settled a civil rights lawsuit by five men detained after the shooting of Oscar Grant, a young black man shot to death by a white transit policeman in Oakland, representatives for both sides said.

The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) agreed to pay $175,000 to the five men who were with Grant when he was shot and killed on a BART train platform at Oakland's Fruitvale Station on New Year's Day in 2009, they said.

The men said they were unnecessarily detained in jail for five hours following the shooting and underwent "several hours of being painfully handcuffed and/or mercilessly interrogated, all while mourning the demise of their childhood friend," according to their complaint.

The settlement in the racially charged case, reached out of court, will be divided between the men - Nigel and Jack Bryson, Michael Greer, Carlos Reyes and Fernando Anciete.

"This was a shocking event for the young men who had their friend killed unjustifiably and then were subsequently arrested and treated like criminals," said an attorney for the five men, John Burris. "These are young men in their mid-20s, so this will allow them to put the case behind them."

Grant was unarmed and lying face down on the station platform when he was shot, an act captured on cellphone videos that went viral on the Internet, prompting a public outcry and protests.

The tale of the shooting was made into a film, "Fruitvale Station," that drew international acclaim.

The officer who killed Grant later testified that he had mistaken his gun for a Taser. He was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2010 and sentenced to two years in prison. He was released in 2011.

"BART is pleased to close this portion of the case, allowing the district to move forward with our continued focus to reform and make meaningful changes within our police department," BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said in a statement.

BART had previously agreed to pay much larger settlements over Grant's death, including $1.3 million to his mother and $1.5 million for his young daughter.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and G Crosse)