BART agreed Tuesday to pay $1.3 million to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by the mother of Oscar Grant, the unarmed train rider who was shot in the back by a transit agency police officer on New Year's Day 2009, attorneys said.
The deal with Wanda Johnson, which includes no admission of fault by BART or any of the officers she sued, was reached at a settlement conference in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.
It closes another chapter in a case that prompted protests and vandalism, ushered in reforms on the BART police force and led to the involuntary manslaughter conviction of former BART Officer Johannes Mehserle, who was recently released after serving half of a two-year prison term.
"If I got $1 or $100 million, it still wouldn't bring Oscar back. My heart still grieves for my son," Johnson said at a news conference at the Oakland office of her attorney, John Burris. "The loss was unnecessary, and I just pray that as officers go around, and they have to make decisions, that they would choose the right decision. It didn't have to be this way."
Burris said the video-recorded shooting of a black man by a white officer had wounded not only the Grant family but the "psyche of the African American community."
A trial on the civil case was months, and perhaps years, away. Dale Allen, an attorney representing BART, said, "This is a fair settlement, given the risks to both sides and the economics of continuing this litigation."
BART board member Lynette Sweet, who chairs a committee guiding reforms for BART law enforcement, said, "We're working hard to make the Police Department the best it can be for our officers, our customers and our community. This settlement is critical in our efforts to move forward."
BART previously agreed to pay $1.5 million to Grant's daughter, Tatiana Grant, who is now 7.
Settlement talks are scheduled to continue today between BART and six other plaintiffs: Grant's incarcerated father, Oscar Grant Jr., and five of Grant's friends who say they were mistreated by police officers before and after the shooting at the Fruitvale BART Station in Oakland.
Mehserle, now 29, shot Grant, a 22-year-old Hayward resident, while trying to handcuff him in front of scores of holiday revelers, some of whom were recording the encounter on video. A second officer had pulled Grant from a Dublin-Pleasanton train after a fight before ordering him arrested for allegedly resisting.
On the witness stand, Mehserle said he had meant to subdue Grant with a Taser shock weapon but had mistakenly fired his pistol into Grant's back.
Allen said Johnson had faced a difficult burden at trial, and would have lost her case if BART could prove that Grant had been resisting and that Mehserle had shot him accidentally. Mehserle was one of the defendants in her lawsuit.
Burris said Johnson had a strong case, adding, "There was no basis to use a Taser or a gun."
Although BART and its officers admitted no wrongdoing, Burris said, "It's pretty obvious when you pay $2.8 million that you feel you have some responsibility for what happened."
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