Johannes Mehserle, 27, of Lafayette was taken into custody in Douglas County, Nev., said Deputy Steve Velez of the Douglas County sheriff’s office. The arrest was also confirmed by David Chai, chief of staff to Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums.
Mehserle was arrested in the New Year’s Day shooting of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old supermarket worker from Hayward who was lying facedown after being pulled off a BART train by police investigating a fight. An Alameda County judge signed an arrest warrant alleging murder, and Mehserle surrendered without incident, authorities said.
The shooting, which was recorded by passengers in videos widely circulated on the Internet and television, prompted public outrage, and some viewers said that the shooting appeared to be an execution.
Sources said Mehserle was in Nevada because he feared for his safety after death threats were made against him. Douglas County is 15 miles south of Carson City in northwestern Nevada and includes part of Lake Tahoe.
Mehserle’s attorney, Christopher W. Miller of Sacramento, confirmed early today that his client was arrested on suspicion of murder. He said he would not comment further until a news conference today.
Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff was expected to announce details of the arrest today. He could not be reached late Tuesday.
Authorities have been under immense pressure to take action in the case. On Tuesday, BART board President Thomas Blalock and board Director Carole Ward Allen sent a letter to Orloff, urging the district attorney to move expeditiously to complete the investigation and file charges if warranted.
Some Oakland community leaders and civil rights activists said the case is symbolic of larger problems with police officers using excessive force on young black men. Grant was black and Mehserle is white.
The arrest came on the eve of a protest scheduled for 4 p.m. today outside Oakland City Hall, the latest in a series of demonstrations in which BART has been accused of mishandling the investigation.
BART police on Monday turned over the results of their preliminary investigation to Orloff’s office. A separate investigation by Oakland police was launched last week, and Mehserle’s arrest was related to that probe, sources said. The state attorney general is also monitoring the case.
Now we know what we are up against. How many times did they need to look at the footage of the shooting to realize they weren’t going to be able to sweep this one under the rug and keep it pushin’?