A woman who videotaped a San Francisco Bay Area transit officer killing an unarmed man testified that the officer had not been acting overly aggressive before the shooting and appeared "dumbfounded" afterward.
Karina Vargas was one of several witnesses who recorded the New Year's Day shooting. She told the judge Monday at the preliminary hearing for Johannes Mehserle that she believed other officers were unnecessarily aggressive in detaining Oscar Grant, whom she said did not appear to be resisting arrest.
Videos taken of the incident show Mehserle firing a shot into Grant's back as the man lay face down on a train platform. The officers had detained Grant and four others at Oakland's Fruitvale station for allegedly fighting on a train.
"He wasn't that aggressive at all," Vargas said of Mehserle's behavior leading up to the shooting, on cross-examination by the defense. "He was handling him a little rough ... but he looked like he was doing what he had to do."
Not guilty plea
Mehserle, who has since resigned from the Bay Area Rapid Transit police department, has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge.
Attorney Michael Rains — who has said his client meant to use his stun gun but accidentally pulled his pistol instead — then asked Vargas how Mehserle looked after the shooting. She said he looked "dumbfounded."
"And shocked?" Rains said.
"Yes," Vargas replied.
Hearing expected to last about 2 weeks
Vargas and another witness, Margarita Carazo, testified Monday in Alameda County Superior Court that they started recording because they felt something bad was happening as the five men were detained at the station.
Their testimony and dramatic videos of the chaotic scene highlighted the first day of a preliminary hearing expected to last about two weeks.
The shooting — which grabbed national attention after videos of the incident began circulating on the Internet and television — continues to fuel community outrage and has led to numerous protests and arrests. On Monday, more than 150 people staged a relatively peaceful demonstration in support of Grant outside the courthouse.