SAN FRANCISCO -- The father of Oscar Grant III testified Tuesday that he believes his son was intentionally killed at the Fruitvale BART station and he wants monetary damages, in part, to provide for his granddaughter.
"The man was killed in cold blood: No ifs, ands or buts about it," said Oscar Grant Jr., testifying for the first time about his son's notorious slaying at the civil trial where he is suing former BART officer Johannes Mehserle for fatally shooting 22-year-old Oscar Grant III on New Year's Day 2009. "I don't care how they say it, it was not an accident.
"They took the most precious thing in the world to me -- my only child," said Grant Jr., 50.
Mehserle, who has repeatedly testified that he meant to use a Taser instead of a gun on the Hayward man, was acquitted of murder and convicted of involuntary manslaughter for the shooting on the Fruitvale BART station platform that was caught by cell phone video cameras and sparked protests and riots before inspiring the major motion picture, "Fruitvale Station."
When the trial closes Friday, Mehserle attorney Michael Rains is expected to argue that Grant Jr. is not entitled to damages because he deprived himself of a relationship with his son. The elder Grant was convicted of an 1985 Oakland murder and has spent his late son's entire life behind bars. The jury knows that Grant Jr., 50, is serving time in Solano state prison, but has been forbidden from hearing the details of his criminal record, as well as Grant III's own arrests and convictions before his death.
Grant Jr.'s leg shackles could be heard rattling Tuesday as he walked to and from the witness stand dressed in a gray suit, blue shirt, and multicolored tie. After showing the jury a photo of himself dressed in prison blues and holding a baby Oscar at the Old Folsom Prison, he described a long and close relationship with his son facilitated through prison visits, letters and phone calls.
The elder Grant said that he and his son had plans for when he was paroled: sports games, barbecues, family reunions, and quiet times with Grant III's daughter Tatiana, now nearly 10. Grant Jr. said he filed the lawsuit out of a respect for his son, because he wants to help take care of Tatiana, and because he wants the chance to pay restitution for his own crimes.
"I've already paid for my crime, I'd like to give back to the community," said Grant Jr., who according to a trial brief filed by his lawyer expects to be paroled in the next couple years after four prior denials by the state parole board.
Grant Jr. became combative when Rains questioned the depth of his relationship with his son by asking if he knew the names of the schools Grant III attended, whether he played high school sports, knew his daughter's birthday, his friend's names, or whether he had a job or a cell phone. Grant Jr. could not answer many of the questions, and Rains was quick to point out any answers that differed from those Grant Jr. gave during a 2010 deposition.
If Grant Jr. was so eager to get out of prison to be with his son, Rains asked, why did he keep getting in trouble in prison for offenses like drug possession over the years?
"What does my prison record have to do with your officer killing my son, shooting my son in the back?" Grant Jr. asked angrily.
Grant Jr. said Grant III last visited him in prison in 2002. He last spoke to his son three days before his Jan. 1, 2009 death.
"I told him, if you decide you wanna drink, don't drive your car. Catch the bus or ride the BART," Grant Jr. said.
Earlier in the day, jurors heard testimony from Terry Foreman, Mehserle's support officer after the shooting, who described how Mehserle's first child was born on the same day Grant III was killed.
"I took a life and I brought a life into this world," Foreman quoted a distraught Mehserle saying at the hospital.
Grant Jr. testified that he doesn't have anything against Mehserle personally, but the former officer has not acknowledged him or apologized to him at the trial. Mehserle has not been in attendance since he testified the first week.
"All I (have) to look at is memories, while he be running around talking about his brand-new son. He can kick it with his son, while I can't," Grant Jr. said.
"I loved my son to death, like any other father who loves their son," he said. "I miss my son. I miss the opportunities."
Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.