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BART Officers Cleared for Holding Grant’s Pals

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Friends of Oscar Grant who were held for hours in handcuffs on the night of the Fruitvale Station shooting cannot hold Bay Area Rapid Transit officers liable, a federal judge ruled.

The incident began on New Year's Day 2009 when officers responded to a call about a fight on a BART train. With the train stopped at the Fruitvale Station, the scene, caught on video by at least two BART riders, grew more intense as passengers screamed in anger at the officers.

While 22-year-old Grant was lying facedown and handcuffed on the station platform, BART officer Johannes Mehserle fatally shot him with a pistol that he allegedly mistook for a Taser.

Grant died a short time later at the hospital as officers detained his friends, Nigel Bryson, Jack Bryson Jr., Michael Greer, Carlos Reyes and Fernando Anicete, at BART police headquarters for four hours in handcuffs.

The men filed unlawful arrest claims later that year, and Mehserle was sentenced to two years in prison for manslaughter in November 2010.

Though U.S. District Judge Marilyn Patel refused to grant the officers qualifited immunity, the 9th Circuit concluded in July 2013 that officers Mehserle and Marysol Domenici deserved as to the "extended detention" claims.

On remand last week, U.S. District Judge Edward Chen said there was no dispute that Commanders Maria White and William Gibson had ordered the detention, and thus "Mehserle and Domenici did not directly cause the constitutional violation themselves."

Mehserle had also already left the scene, having shot Grant at the Fruitvale Station, by the time White and Gibson showed up. The plaintiffs alleged that Mehserle was nevertheless responsible for their prolonged detention simply by shooting Grant, his actions having "set in motion" a series of events that led to their constitutional rights being violated.

Chen disagreed. "It cannot be said that the arrests of the other plaintiffs which ensued was a foreseeable, likely or proximate result of the shooting," he wrote. "In sum, Mehserle cannot be held liable for plaintiffs' extended detention under a 'set in motion' theory."

"Mehserle's mere presence on the platform for approximately ten minutes following the shooting is simply insufficient to find that he was an integral participant in the hours-long detention of plaintiffs," Chen added.

In granting Domenici immunity, the judge said her mere presence at the scene, where she was attempting to control the crowd, was not enough to prove she played an integral part in the extended detentions.

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