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Former transit officer goes on trial for fatal shooting of unarmed man

By the CNN Wire Staff
Aidge Patterson of the LA Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant leads a protest rally outside a pretrial hearing in March.
Aidge Patterson of the LA Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant leads a protest rally outside a pretrial hearing in March.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Former transit officer accused of shooting unarmed man
  • Shooting captured on video spurred riots
  • Trial moved to Los Angeles to avoid publicity
  • Victim's family settled wrongful death suit for $1.5 million
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Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- Jury selection begins Wednesday in the case of former Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer Johannes Mehserle who is accused of fatally shooting an unarmed man on a California train platform on New Year's Day last year.

Mehserle, who is white, has pleaded not guilty to killing Oscar Grant III, a 22-year-old black man.

The shooting was captured on a bystander's cell-phone video camera, widely circulated on the Internet and on news shows, and spurred several protests and riots in and around Oakland.

The trial has been moved from Alameda County to Los Angeles due to pre-trial publicity.

Bay Area Rapid Transit police were called to Oakland's Fruitvale station January 1, 2009, after passengers complained about fights on a train. Officers pulled several men, including Grant, off the train when it arrived at Fruitvale.

The video showed Mehserle pulling his gun and fatally shooting Grant in the back as another officer kneeled on the unarmed Grant. Mehserle may have intended to draw and fire his Taser rather than his gun, according to a court filing by his lawyer.

Mehserle resigned his position a few days after the incident and was later arrested in Nevada. Mehserle was released on a $3 million bond.

Grant's family filed a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against the officers involved in the incident

In January, the transit system agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle the suit. The money will provide financial support to Grant's 5-year-old daughter.