Jan. 14, 2009— -- A former transit police officer accused of shooting an unarmed passenger in the back on an Oakland, Calif., train platform on New Years Day has been arrested on homicide charges, police said.
Johannes Mehserle, 27, was being held without bail in Douglas County, Nev., pending his extradition on a California fugitive warrant, according to the Douglas County Sheriff's Department.
Mehserle was arrested Tuesday night near Lake Tahoe. He waived his right to contest extradition and will be transported to California today, the sheriff's department said.
Mehserle, who is white, has been accused of shooting 22-year-old Oscar Grant, who is black, in the back while Grant was lying face down on a train platform. Grant's family has claimed that some officers used racial slurs during the arrest and the shooting has angered many in Oakland's African-American community, sparking a series of protests last week.
Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff said at a news conference today that the Mehserle was charged with murder because the evidence indicates "an unlawful killing done by an intentional act."
A lawyer for Mehserle was not immediately available for comment but planned to hold a press coference later this afternoon.
Bay Area Rapid Transit police officers had pulled Grant, who was unarmed, and several other passengers off a train at about 2 a.m. on New Year's Day to investigate a fight aboard a train from San Francisco to Oakland.
Video footage shot with cell phone cameras by Grant's fellow passengers shows Grant being shot in the back while lying on his stomach on the train platform.
A lawyer for Grant's family, who filed a $25 million civil suit against BART, said Grant's mother was pleased that charges had been filed.
"This illustrates the finality of the loss of her son, but she is pleased that the man will be brought before the judicial system," he said.
The footage of the incident has circulated widely on the Internet and has sparked outrage in the Bay Area.
Hundreds protested the shooting last week, calling for Mehserle's arrest. During one protest that turned violent, more than 100 people were arrested and about 300 businesses were damaged. Another protest was scheduled for this afternoon.
Police: Mehserle Went to Nevada for His Own Safety
Douglas County Undersheriff Paul Howell said he believes Mehserle went to Nevada for his own safety.
"We believe he came to Nevada just for his own personal protection," he said. "Things are at a fairly high state of anxiety in the Bay Area and he wanted to get out of there for his personal safety."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.