In a dramatic story that has been stoked by amateur YouTube videos, the aftermath of the fatal New Year's Day shooting of a young man by a BART officer unfolded Wednesday on several fronts - with protests, a funeral and an announcement that the officer had resigned.
Late Wednesday, Oakland police responded to scattered disturbances as hundreds of protesters gathered around the Lake Merritt BART station, overturned trash cans, lit a dumpster on fire and rocked a police car back and forth. Police used tear gas to disperse the crowd. It was unclear whether there were any arrests or injuries.
Earlier that day, more than 1,000 people turned out at a Hayward church to remember Oscar Grant III , who one worshipper called "the apple of God's eyes.'' Cell phone videos apparently show Grant face down being shot by an officer standing over him.
On the same day, as word spread that Officer Johannes Mehserle had quit the force, about 50 protesters met with Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff to demand that his office file charges against Mehserle in the shooting at the Fruitvale BART station. After initially resisting, Orloff let the protesters into his office, but excluded about a dozen members of the press waiting outside in the lobby. The group included 10 local pastors, Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson, and Oakland City Councilmember Desley Brooks, who has called Grant's death "an execution.''
BART officials announced Wednesday that Mehserle, 27, had resigned. Earlier in the week, the officer's attorney postponed a meeting that had been scheduled by BART investigators for Tuesday and sought to defer the meeting until next week, according to a press release from BART.
BART investigators declined the delay and scheduled Wednesday's meeting, during which Mehserle's attorney and union representative submitted his resignation letter. The officer was not present, according to the release from BART.
BART officials had urged Mehserle to meet and cooperate with the transit agency's investigation into the fatal shooting, which has been playing out online in disturbing videos and eyewitness accounts of the melee that led to the incident. Officers were called to the station after a report that a fight had broken out on a train.
"This shooting is a tragic event in every respect for all involved," BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger said. "We recognize that the family and friends of Oscar Grant are in mourning and we extend our condolences."
At the funeral services at Palma Ceia Baptist Church, friends described the 22-year-old father as a natural leader of other kids in the church's Royal Ambassadors program, and some thought he would someday become a pastor himself.
"I met Oscar when he was young — 6, 7, 8 years old. Oscar always knew so much for a young person," Deacon Eugene Carter said during the service. "It seemed like he knew as much as some adults. ... He would ask adult questions."
Carter said that from a young age, Grant enjoyed fishing, baseball, chess, dominoes — "whatever you knew how to do, Oscar already knew how to do it."
Church member Donna Smith said Grant "always wanted to lead his family in prayer. Oscar had the loudest voice when he sang in the Sunshine Choir."
Kris Raffety, who said he'd known Grant for 17 years, told the audience that "no matter what, Oscar would always be there for you. He was always so good to his friends. I think of his smile, his laugh, his energy and the unconditional love he brought to each of us."
Grant's sister, Chantay Moore, put together a slide show from their life together, saying she didn't realize how many people were in her brother's life until she saw the standing-room-only crowd in the church.
She described Grant as a "younger brother who could also be an older brother," and related an incident when he wouldn't allow her out of the house because he thought her clothes were inappropriate.
"He was protective," she said. "If you weren't wearing jeans and a shirt, he didn't like it."
There were at least a dozen media organizations at the service, and the church's Rev. Ronald Coleman urged the crowd to "show how believers handle times like this - the world is watching."
He urged church members to respond with prayer and prudence.
"I can understand that youngsters are upset and angry,'' said Coleman, "but you have to have trust in God."