SAN FRANCISCO -- A BART police officer took the stand at a civil trial Monday and defended herself against allegations that she used excessive force against Oscar Grant III's friends after her former colleague Johannes Mehserle fatally shot the 22-year-old Hayward man at the Fruitvale station in 2009.
"So is it your testimony that all these people are lying that you threatened them with a Taser?" attorney Jessica Barsotti asked Officer Marysol Domenici, who like Mehserle was working cover officer for Officer Anthony Pirone in his detainment of Grant III and his friends on the station platform.
"Yes," Domenici replied without hesitation.
Oscar Grant Jr. is suing Mehserle over his son's death at the same trial that Zeporia Smith is suing Domenici for alleged excessive force against her son Johntue Caldwell, a best friend of Grant III's who was killed in an unsolved shooting at a Hayward gas station in 2011.
It's the final civil case surrounding the New Year's Day 2009 shooting caught by cellphone cameras that prompted protests and riots and inspired the Hollywood film "Fruitvale Station." Mehserle testified last week and at his 2010 criminal trial that he meant to use a Taser on Grant III and accidentally shot the unarmed man in the back when he thought he might be reaching for a gun.
Mehserle, 32, served approximately a year in jail after being convicted of involuntary manslaughter. BART fired Domenici for allegedly lying to investigators and at Mehserle's preliminary hearing, but she won back her job with back pay through arbitration in a late 2010 ruling that found that she had been truthful. Appearing at the trial in uniform, she now works as a training officer for the BART force.
Domenici testified Monday that despite several claims she pointed her Taser in the face of Caldwell and others in the aftermath of the shooting, she only used her Taser to threaten Grant III's friend Fernando Anicete because he was advancing on her in a menacing manner and threatened to cut her head off. Anicete was tackled by another officer moments before Mehserle shot Grant III, according to video played for the jury. In May, he and four other friends of Grant III were awarded $175,000 to split as a settlement for their lawsuit against the transit agency.
The jury heard testimony from Anthony Pirone via an edited videotaped deposition interview he gave in 2009 because Pirone is currently deployed in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army. Pirone, who is still in arbitration over his firing, admitted to hurling racial slurs at Grant III after detaining the young men for an investigation into a fight on a BART train.
It was Pirone's use of force -- pushing and striking Grant III -- that contributed to the chaos among the spectrogram at the station, according to the videos. Pirone told attorney John Burris in his deposition that he used force because Grant III took a swing at him, refused orders to stay seated and was swearing at him.
Testimony continues Tuesday.