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Wrongful death civil trial proceeds in San Francisco

Police officers often face situations in which they're confronted with decisions abiout using deadly force. If one of those decisions results in a fatality, their judgment may be questioned and they may even be faced with a wrongful death claim. That happened with a former BART officer who fatally shot a 22-year-old on New Year's Day 2009. The former officer gave testimony with regard to the shooting in a federal court on Wednesday.

While on the stand, he said that he did not racially profile the young man before shooting him. He is accused of doing so in the wrongful death civil trial, which was brought by the father of the slain Hayward man. The former officer says that he was just following the lead of other BART officers.

The incident took place at the Fruitvale BART station. The officers were investigating a report about a physical altercation. According to published reports, that altercation involved black men who were dressed in black while on a BART train. Once there, the officers perceived that there was a threat, and the shooting occurred.

It sparked riots and protests from those who felt that the shooting was unjustified. Multiple people filmed the incident with their cellphone cameras, and it was widely publicized. There was even a movie made about it called "Fruitvale Station."

The former officer who testified Wednesday was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter back in 2010 because of the shooting. He served approximately a year in jail. He says that he shot the man accidentally.

Any wrongful death claim involves a wide array of issues. Everything about what happened will need to be looked at, including the specific circumstances of the incident. Anyone involved in such a claim should talk with an attorney about how to best present the relevant facts.

Source:, "Former BART officer Johannes Mehserle testifies in wrongful death civil trial in San Francisco" Malaika Fraley, Jun. 12, 2014

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