OAKLAND -- Cephus Johnson, an uncle of Oscar Grant III, waited patiently outside the Los Angeles County Men's Jail on Sunday night, hoping to catch a glimpse of the man who killed his nephew.
Instead, Johnson said Monday, all he saw as midnight approached was a cadre of police cruisers and a helicopter, followed by an automated phone call notifying him that former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle was set free after serving 11 months in jail.
"It's totally disappointment, anger, hurt and pain," Johnson said of Mehserle's release. "There is still a lot of work to be done to make sure police officers are held accountable for their actions.
Mehserle was released from jail at 12:01 a.m. Monday after serving 365 days in jail and receiving 366 days credit for time served for his conviction of involuntary manslaughter for killing Grant.
Although Mehserle was sentenced to state prison for his conviction, he was never sent to the California Department of Corrections because of safety concerns. Michael Rains, Mehserle's attorney, successfully argued to keep Mehserle in a Los Angeles County jail, where he was held in his own cell and apart from other inmates.
Mehserle also did not serve the entire two-year sentence handed down by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert Perry because of credits he received for time served. Mehserle was sent to jail immediately July 8 after a Los Angeles jury found him guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
For Grant's family, the release is a bitter reminder of the tragedy that occurred in the early hours of Jan. 1, 2009, and how, in their minds, the criminal justice system failed.
"We really don't feel like there has been accountability for his actions," Cephus Johnson, Grant's uncle and a family spokesman, said earlier this month. "We were totally let down by the judicial system."
Johnson said he was waiting outside the Los Angeles County Men's Jail about midnight hoping to catch a glimpse of Mehserle, but he did not see the former officer. Instead, Johnson said, he saw several police cars and helicopters arrive at the jail about that time and, after they left, he received a call confirming that Mehserle had been released.
For Mehserle, being freed from jail offers a chance to begin anew -- but not in the profession he had chosen when he became a BART officer more than three years ago. While Mehserle's release closes a chapter in the highly publicized saga, the story of Grant's death and its implications will continue for years as both a federal civil suit and an appeal of Mehserle's conviction remain active in the courts.
Rains would not discuss what Mehserle's plans are or where he will live; he was unavailable for comment Monday.
It also remains unclear what type of parole Mehserle will be given. Some have said he will be given the most lenient parole available in the state, which does not require him to take drug tests, check in with a parole officer or remain a resident of California.
Mehserle was charged with murder for killing the 22-year-old Hayward man on the Fruitvale BART station platform in Oakland. The killing made national headlines and sparked several destructive demonstrations after videos captured by BART passengers recorded the shooting. The videos showed an unarmed Grant being shot in the back as he lay prone on the platform with another BART police officer holding him down.
Mehserle refused to speak to investigators immediately after the killing and eventually was charged with murder by Tom Orloff, a former Alameda County district attorney. Orloff has since retired.
Publicity surrounding the shooting and the frequent protests in downtown Oakland forced a relocation of the trial to Los Angeles. During the trial, Mehserle testified in his own defense, arguing that the shooting was an accident caused when he mistook his gun for his Taser.
A jury appeared to believe Mehserle, finding him guilty of involuntary manslaughter. That verdict and a decision made by Perry during a sentencing hearing to throw out a complicated gun enhancement charge reduced Mehserle's possible term in jail from 25 years to life to two years.
It also angered Grant's loved ones, who continue to believe that Mehserle purposely killed Grant and that he has not paid enough for the crime.
Although Mehserle has been released from jail, the case will continue as both a federal civil rights lawsuit is pending and Grant's family continues to hope that the U.S. Justice Department files criminal charges.
In addition, the National Lawyers Guild, a leftist advocacy group, filed a class-action suit against Oakland on Monday that argues that the city violated the First Amendment rights of protesters who gathered in downtown Oakland in November after Mehserle was sentenced.