History of Foundation
The Oscar Grant Foundation (OGF) was established on August 13, 2010, as a Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation. It was organized after the criminal trial and subsequent conviction of former B.A.R.T. Police Officer Johannes Mehserle for the January 1, 2009 unlawful killing of Oscar Julius Grant III. Oscar’s mother, Rev. Wanda R. Johnson, now heads the Foundation, and its mission is to help bridge the gap of distrust between individuals in at-risk communities and law enforcement.
The social issues we face today are complex, therefore, the methodology used to address these issues must also be complex. The traditional model, which assumes there is a correlation between the number of patrol officers and the rate of crime in at-risk communities, has not proven effective. We believe the secret lies in critically examining the root cause of negative stereotyping among the two communities.
To this end, the Foundation is committed to upholding Oscar’s legacy, by being a resource for at-risk youth of all races who wish to turn their lives around in a positive way. The Foundation will work tirelessly with at-risk youth to reduce teen pregnancy, teen crime and high school attrition. Our goal is to help improve the self-esteem, academic performance and inter-personal relationships of at-risk youth by demonstrating the positive benefits of establishing a particular moral foundation that has a proven tendency of resulting in high achievement despite negative surroundings. For example, the Foundation offers workshops and athletic programs that are designed impart techniques for at-risk youth to avoid negative police interactions. Finally, the Foundation will provide cultural sensitivity training to law enforcement agencies, focusing on the historical impact social injustice has had on the development of these at-risk populations, and the resulting cultural pathology.
“THE SHOOTING DEATH OF OSCAR GRANT”
In the early morning hours of New Year’s Day 2009, Oscar Juliuss Grant III was fatally shot by former Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Police officer Johannes Mehserle in Oakland, California, USA. Responding to reports of a fight on a crowded BART train returning from San Francisco, and based on only a general description of those involved in the fight, several BART Police officers detained Grant on the platform of the Fruitvale BART Station. By the time Mehserle arrived at the scene, another BART officer was restraining Oscar, who was unarmed and lying face down on the platform. Based on the belief that Oscar was reaching into his waistband while being restrained by that other BART officer, Mehserle claims he intended to draw his Taser®, but instead drew his 9mm pistol, and discharged a single fatal round striking Oscar in the chest. Oscar was pronounced dead the next morning at Highland Hospital in Oakland.
The events were captured on several digital video and cell phone cameras. The footage was quickly disseminated to media outlets and to various websites, where it was viewed by millions. The following days saw both peaceful and violent protests.
On January 30, 2010, Alameda County prosecutors charged Mehserle with murder for the shooting death of Oscar Grant. Mehserle soon resigned his position and pleaded not guilty. After a change of venue, the criminal trial began June 10, 2010 in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
On July 8, 2010, the jury returned its verdict: Mehserle was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, and acquitted of both second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter. Initial protests against the ruling were peacefully organized, however, looting, arson, destruction of property, and small riots broke out after dark. Nearly 80 people were eventually arrested.
On July 9, the U.S. Justice Department opened a civil rights investigation against Mehserle, however, no federal charges have been filed against Mehserle to date.
On November 5, 2010, Mehserle was sentenced to two years in State Prison, but was given double credit for the 146 days he had already served prior to sentencing, thereby reducing his sentence by 292 days. Mehserle served his time in the Los Angeles County Jail, occupying a private cell away from other prisoners, and was released on June 13, 2011.