by Reginald James
Officer Tony Pirone, who called Grant a “bitch ass nigger,” was also seen in a video attacking Grant. Pirone was the officer kneeling on Grant’s back when then-BART police officer Johannes Mehserle shot Grant in the back. Grant later died.
Mehserle was charged with murder and had his trial moved to Los Angeles. The trial is scheduled to begin in June.
Daschel Butler, interim BART police chief, made the decision to fire Pirone Thursday. Last week, Butler announced a temporary ban on the BART police force’s use of Tasers.
Pirone is the second BART police officer to be fired in connection with the shooting of Grant. Last month, Pirone’s partner, Marysol Domenici, was also fired. They were the first to arrive on the scene at the Fruitvale BART station on New Year’s Day 2009 when Grant was killed.
Pirone is responsible for “setting up and escalating the situation that Johannes Mehserle walked into just minutes before he shot Oscar Grant in the back” in the words of Dave Id of Indybay.org. Id added that he is also the “officer who pulled one of Oscar Grant’s friends to the ground by his hair – a ‘hair pull takedown,’ as Pirone bragged in court.”
Looking forward to Mehserle’s trial, Id observes that now that Pirone has been fired, he “will no longer be able to testify as a police officer in good standing within his department.”
On April 8, 200 protesters disrupted the evening commute at Embarcadero Station in San Francisco to demand the firing of Pirone, along with the disbanding of BART police. According to Dave Id, it was “the largest demonstration for justice for Oscar Grant in over a year.”
“We’re not going to give up until Tony Pirone is fired,” Hannibal Shakur, organizer with Oakland for Justice, had said that evening. “BART is not qualified to run a police force. They are accountable to no one. BART police must be disbanded. Actions will be escalated. We will continue to be peaceful and non-violent. We won’t stop fighting until justice is truly served.”
With the firing of Pirone, three of the officers involved with the death of Grant are no longer on the force. BART police officer Emery Knudtson, who was present at the April 8 demonstration – but was taunted until he left the platform – is still on the force. Pirone and Domenici were placed on paid administrative leave since last year’s shooting. Some estimate the expense of keeping those officers on the payroll for 14 or more months to be upwards of $200,000.
BART reached a settlement with Grant’s daughter for $1.5 million in January. Due to accrued interest, the total is estimated to be larger.
Though Butler could not be reached for comment, a statement from the BART police chief has since been posted to BART.gov saying, “I have announced to my staff that Officer Tony Pirone is no longer employed by the District. Mr. Pirone’s last day of employment was today.”
In an email, BART chief spokesperson Linton Johnson wrote, “I can simply say that Mr. Pirone is no longer an employee with the District effective immediately.”
It is expected that BART will name a permanent chief this week. Embattled former chief Gary Gee was allowed to retire without incident last year.
This video was originally broadcast in January 2009, shortly after Oscar Grant’s murder.