BART Unveils Oscar Grant Mural and Street Sign at Fruitvale Station

Oscar Grant's mother Wanda Johnson (center) stands in front of the mural of her son outside the Fruitvale BART station with the BART Board of Directors on June 8, 2019. (Sonja Hutson/KQED)

BART unveiled a mural of Oscar Grant on Saturday at the Fruitvale station where Grant was fatally shot by a BART police officer 10 years ago. The transit agency also unveiled street signs naming a previously unnamed adjacent street Oscar Grant III Way.

Grant was killed by BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle on New Year's Day 2009 while the 22-year-old Grant was unarmed and lying face down on the station platform, and the cell phone video of the shooting helped spark a national conversation on police killings. Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and has said he meant to pull his Taser and not his gun when he shot Grant.

"The mural and the street doesn't bring him back, but it gives a sense of atonement for us in a small part," said Wanda Johnson, Grant's mother, at the unveiling Saturday. Johnson says she's going to keep pushing for BART to rename the Fruitvale station after her son.

The previously unnamed street outside the Fruitvale BART station now bears Oscar Grant's name.
The previously unnamed street outside the Fruitvale BART station now bears Oscar Grant's name. (Sonja Hutson/KQED)

The mural, on the outside wall of the station, shows Grant smiling in front of the Oakland skyline with a dove above it. It was painted by local artist Senay “Refa One” Alkebulan.

When he died, Grant left behind a 4-year-old daughter, Tatiana. She is 14 now and attended the unveiling, even though she usually avoids the station because of what happened to her dad.

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"I feel actually happy because we have a community who actually support us and understands that it's hard for our family," she said.

The Legacy of Oscar Grant

As happy as the mural makes her, she said she likely still won't come to the station. She prefers to visit her dad at his grave.

"It makes me more sad as I get older," Tatiana said. "I finally understand that he's gone, that he's not here. Because when my mom said that he was gone when I was little I thought, 'Oh, maybe he's on a trip or far away for a minute,' but now I know he's actually dead."

Lateefah Simon, who sits on the BART Board of Directors, described Grant's death as the start of a movement around the country that pushed back against police shootings of young black men.

"It forced law enforcement officers, mothers like Wanda Johnson, members of the community to put a mirror towards the historical reality and current reality of rogue law enforcement in the face of black men," Simon said. "It's extremely radical to have the government agency responsible for the death of a young man honor him in this way. And BART is trying to atone for this horrible tragedy. And there's more work to do."

Simon said she wants more implicit bias training for BART police officers and to select a new police chief who's compassionate and collaborates with other public service agencies, like the Department of Human Services.