LOS ANGELES (AP) — A white transit officer let anger impact his judgment when he shot an unarmed black man on an Oakland train platform last year, a prosecutor said Thursday as the officer’s trial opened.
In a nearly two-hour opening statement, Deputy District Attorney Dave Stein recounted for jurors the events surrounding the New Year’s Day 2009 fatal shooting of Oscar Grant, 22.
Johannes Mehserle, 28, who is no longer a transit officer, is charged with murder in the case, which was moved to Los Angeles because of intense media coverage and violence sparked by racial tensions.
“The shooting death of Mr. Grant was the result of emotions taking over for discipline,” Stein said. “This was a result of aggression taking over judgment and training. For that, the defendant must be held responsible.”
Prosecutors said Mehserle intended to shoot Grant and used his gun because officers were losing control of the situation. Mehserle’s attorney contends the former officer accidentally pulled out a handgun instead of his stun gun.
Using video taken by bystanders to illustrate how the shooting occurred, Stein said Mehserle did not make a mistake. Stein pointed to the video showing Mehserle looking down at his holster before pulling out the gun.
“Was the defendant confused?” Stein asked. “Look where he’s looking? He’s looking at what he’s doing.”
Stein also noted that Mehserle wears his gun on his right side and his Taser on his left side. Mehserle would have had to reach across his body to grab his stun gun, Stein said.
The prosecutor also said that Mehserle told another officer “I thought he was going for a gun” as more evidence showing Mehserle’s intent to use his firearm.
Defense Attorney Michael Rains was expected to make an opening statement later Thursday.
Grant’s relatives attended Thursday’s court session.
The defendant, wearing a gray suit and yellow tie, occasionally looked at the video as it was playing but mostly kept his gaze directed downward.
The trial is expected to last about a month.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.