LOS ANGELES (AP) — A former San Francisco Bay Area transit police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black man on a train platform last year received six hours of stun gun training a month before the shooting, but didn’t get to practice how to draw the weapon from various positions, a defense witness testified Wednesday.
Stewart Lehman, an officer with Bay Area Rapid Transit, said Johannes Mehserle took the class in December 2008, about a month before he fatally shot Oscar Grant on an Oakland, Calif., train platform. Lehman said Mehserle learned how the Taser stun gun worked and was given three scenarios in which the weapon could be used.
Mehserle, 28, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Grant on New Year’s Day 2009. The trial was moved from Alameda County to Los Angeles because of intense media coverage and racial tensions. Mehserle is white and Grant was black.
Mehserle’s attorney, Michael Rains, has argued that his client, who resigned from BART shortly after the shooting, mistakenly pulled his handgun instead of his stun gun when he shot Grant, 22.
Through Lehman’s testimony, Rains appeared to try to show jurors that Mehserle got the very minimum amount of training on how to use a stun gun.
“You can always increase the number of hours of training,” Lehman said.
BART officers also weren’t given the option during the course to pull the weapon from locations allowed by the agency. Lehman said officers could unholster the stun gun four different ways.
Mehserle wore his stun gun on the left side of his belt and would have presumably had to cross over his body with his dominant right hand to grab the weapon or his use left hand.
Prosecutors believe Mehserle intended to shoot Grant, and that Mehserle used his .40-caliber weapon because officers were losing control of the situation.
Deputy District Attorney David Stein showed a video in his opening statement that showed Mehserle would have to push down and forward on a holster hood then pull back a lever in order to release his handgun.
On cross-examination, Stein had Lehman demonstrate to jurors how an officer would pull out a Taser. Lehman said an officer would have to unsnap a safety button with the thumb moving sideways and then push the holster hood forward before drawing the weapon.
On video taken by bystanders of the shooting, Mehserle is seen taking out his handgun and placing both hands on the weapon before shooting. Rains asked Lehman if BART officers are trained to use both hands when firing a stun gun.
“That’s an option they can use,” Lehman said.
BART suspended Taser use earlier this year after two court rulings limited use of the device. However, the agency gave officers their stun guns back earlier this month after it updated its policies and retrained officers, who must now carry them on their weak or nondominant side.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.