By Antonio R. Harvey | OBSERVER Staff Writer

California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced this week that the California Department of Justice (DOJ) will conduct its own independent review of former Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) officer Anthony Pirone’s role in the officer-involved shooting of Oscar Grant. 

The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office recently issued a report in January 2021, which concluded that no criminal charges would be brought against Pirone. On New Year’s Day 2009, Grant was fatally shot while lying face down on a train platform at the Fruitvale Station in Oakland. 

Consistent with the DOJ’s longstanding practice and at Attorney General Bonta’s direction, the state legal department said in a written statement it is “committed to engaging in its own thorough and independent review of Pirone’s involvement in the incident.”

“Transparency is critical to building and maintaining trust between law enforcement and the communities we serve,” said Attorney General Bonta, adding that the DOJ “will go where the facts lead.”

Grant’s death was captured on cell phone video, which went viral and triggered protests across the country. Video footage showed Pirone aggressively pinning Grant to the ground and putting a knee to the back of his neck. The Grant family is asking for felony murder charges to be brought against Pirone, the San Jose Mercury News revealed. 

The officer who shot Grant, Johannes Mehserle, was charged by the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office with murder and convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

Alameda County D.A. Nancy O’Malley reopened the case last year but decided in January that there was not enough evidence to file any criminal charges against Pirone. 

O’Malley stated that the letter of the law stipulates that Pirone cannot be charged with aiding and abetting involuntary manslaughter. The prosecutor emphasized that the statute of limitations for all crimes other than homicide had ended.

Following the Alameda County DA’s Office’s decision, a request for review was made to the DOJ from Oscar Grant’s mother Wanda Johnson; the BART Board of Directors, The Justice 4 Oscar Grant Coalition, and a number of other local community leaders. 

Bonta and his office are able to reopen cases due to a California law that requests that the A.G. launch a formal review of situations where an officer used force against an unarmed individual that resulted in death or harm.

Authored by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) of District 7, Assembly Bill (AB) 1506 requires a state prosecutor from the Attorney General’s office to investigate such incidents.

The DOJ expects to review up to 40 police-related murder investigations each year. Bonta said the process would be “fair and impartial.”