A former white police officer has been sentenced to the minimum possible jail term of two years for shooting dead an unarmed black man in California.
A judge has sentenced a white former transit officer to two years in prison in the shooting death of an unarmed black man on a California train platform.
The sentence by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Perry was significantly less than the possible 14—year maximum term for Johannes Mehserle.
When Mr. Perry issued his sentence, the mother of victim Oscar Grant shouted, “Oh my!”
Mr. Perry, however, threw out a gun enhancement that could have added 10 years in prison and said there was overwhelming evidence indicating it was an accidental shooting.
Lawyers for Mehserle argued the gun enhancement was written into law to punish robbers and other armed criminals.
Mehserle was convicted in July of involuntary manslaughter in the videotaped, New Year’s Day 2009 killing of 22—year—old Grant in Oakland.
Mr. Perry had wide discretion when sentencing the 28-year-old Mehserle.
Prosecutors sought prison time for Mehserle, whose lawyers argued for probation.
Mehserle testified during the trial that he thought Grant had a weapon and decided to shock him with his stun gun but instead pulled his .40—caliber handgun. Grant was unarmed and face down when he was shot.
The incident led to rioting shortly after the shooting.
Sentencing came after the family of Grant urged a judge to impose the maximum sentence for involuntary manslaughter.
Four relatives of victim Oscar Grant and his fiancee pleaded with Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert Perry to order Mehserle to prison for 14 years.
Wanda Johnson, Grant’s mother, cried as she gave a victim impact statement.
“I live every day of my life in pain,” she said. “My son is not here because of a careless action.”
The family continues to maintain that it was murder when Mehserle shot Grant. Mehserle was a Bay Area Rapid Transit officer responding to a report of a fight.
Mehserle, shackled and wearing a jail jumpsuit, also stood before the judge before sentencing and apologized for the shooting, which he contended was accidental and not racially motivated.
“I want to say how deeply sorry I am,” Mehserle said. “Nothing I ever say or do will heal the wound. I will always be sorry for taking Mr. Grant from them.”
He also cried during portions of his 10—minute statement.
Earlier, the judge said he had received more than 1,000 letters urging a harsh sentence.