A white former transit officer was convicted of involuntary manslaughter Thursday in the shooting death of an unarmed black man on an Oakland train platform in a 2009 encounter that set off days of rioting in the city.
Prosecutors had wanted Johannes Mehserle convicted of murdering 22-year-old Oscar Grant, who was shot as he lay face-down.
Grant’s mother, Wanda Johnson, stared at jurors and appeared upset then later denounced the verdict outside the courthouse.
“My son was murdered! He was murdered! He was murdered,” she said.
Earlier in court, Mehserle was placed in handcuffs and taken away after the verdict, which included a finding that the defendant personally used a handgun. He turned to his family and mouthed, “I love you, guys.” His parents wept when the verdict was read.
One woman juror wiped tears with a tissue when the panel was polled on its decision.
On the east side of San Francisco Bay, police in riot gear were deployed on the streets of Oakland.
A crowd near Oakland City Hall moaned and cursed when they heard the verdict. A dozen people gathered in a semicircle to pray.
“It’s not real, it’s not real. Where’s the justice? He was killed in cold blood,” said Amber Royal, 23, of Oakland.
Grant family attorney John Burris said the family was “extremely disappointed” with the verdict.
“This verdict is not a true representation of what happened to Oscar Grant and what happened to him that night. This was not a voluntary manslaughter case,” Burris said.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a statement urging Californians to remain calm and not resort to violence. Schwarzenegger said he had informed Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums the state was well prepared to assist in maintaining order.
The jury had a choice between murder and lesser charges of voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. The jury found that Mehserle didn’t mean to kill Grant, but that his behavior was still so negligent that it was criminal.
Involuntary manslaughter carries a sentence of two to four years. The next hearing was set for Aug. 6.
The jury included eight women and four men. None listed their race as black. Seven said they were white, three were Latino, and one was Asian-Pacific. One declined to state their race. They left the courthouse under tight security.