Just months after the investigation into the Oscar Grant’s shooting was reopened, the Alameda County district attorney announced charges will not be filed against the second officer involved in the incident.
According to the New York Times, Nancy O’Malley, the Alameda County district attorney, released a report outlining why charges couldn’t be brought against Anthony Pirone, a former transit officer who is believed to have escalated the circumstances that led to Grant’s death. O’Malley’s office found that Pirone couldn’t be charged as he didn’t personally kill Grant or aid and abet the killer. “Although Pirone’s conduct was aggressive, utterly unprofessional, and disgraceful, it did not rise to the mental state required for murder,” O’Malley said in a statement.
On New Year’s Day 2009, Pirone and former transit officer Johannes Mehserle were responding to a fight on a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train. Mehserle shot and killed Grant while he was face down on the ground and unarmed. Mehserle would later say the killing was an accident because he meant to use his stun gun not his pistol. Mehserle was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in 2010 and served 11 months in prison. Grant’s death spurred multiple mass protests in Oakland and was the basis for the 2013 film, Fruitvale Station.
Bystanders recorded the events that led up to Grant’s death using their cellphones. In many of those videos, Pirone was seen violently pulling Grant from the train, striking Grant for no reason, pinning him to the ground by placing his knee on his neck, and at one point using a racial slur. An unsealed report into the shooting placed much of the blame on Pirone, saying that “the actions of Officer Pirone started a cascade of events that ultimately led to the shooting of Grant.”
O’Malley’s report more or less cosigns this sentiment, saying that while “There is no evidence that Pirone personally caused Mr. Grant’s death,” Pirone’s actions “contributed to the chaotic nature” of events that led to the shooting of Grant. Despite this, the investigation ultimately found that Mehserle was the “sole and actual killer.”
“In view of everything we have considered — and reconsidered — we conclude that we cannot prove Pirone guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” O’Malley said. “We condemn Pirone’s conduct but we cannot charge him with murder or any other crime.”
The investigation was reopened in October following a request by Grant’s family, who had hoped that the new investigation would result in charges being filed against Pirone. At a press conference on Monday, Grant’s mother, Wanda Johnson, expressed her dismay at the district attorney’s decision.
“My son laid on the cold concrete with that Officer Pirone’s knee on his neck,” she said. “My son’s head was smashed against the wall and he was kicked and he was pushed. Pirone still walks around free today.”