Johannes Mehserle has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, it was announced in the Los Angeles Country Superior Court shortly after 4 p.m. Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 6.
Fourteen firefighters from the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department and two Pleasanton police sergeants left for emergency duty at a staging area in San Leandro while the new fire chief, Jim Miguel, was being sworn in. Chief Miguel wished them well as they left.
In anticipation of the verdict, Pleasanton police are back to 12-hour shifts instead of 10, officials said.
BART officials were asking passengers -- especially those riding near the downtown San Francisco and downtown Oakland stations -- to be patient with service because the trains have been full since before 3 p.m. as a result of the Mehserle verdict.
"All of our trains are on time; however, they are very packed with passengers," BART spokesman Linton Johnson said.
Noah Klein was one of the passengers trying to get on a train at the 12th Street/Oakland City Center station.
Klein works in the Elihu M. Harris State Building in downtown Oakland, and was told to go home early after word came in that a verdict had been reached.
"It was a mob almost," he said. "It wasn't rushing or angry or trying to push, but everyone was trying to make their way down to a train."
"Everybody's pretty calm, just a little concerned," he said.
BART reported at 6 p.m. that the Alameda County Sheriff had requested that BART close the City Center entrances to 12th Street Station in Oakland.
BART Board President James Fang issued a statement this evening in response to the involuntary manslaughter conviction of former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle.
Fang said BART officials continue to deeply regret the shooting death of unarmed passenger Oscar Grant III on the platform of the Fruitvale
station in Oakland early on New Year's Day 2009.
"A young man lost his life because of the actions of a former BART police officer. It is a heartbreaking fact that no one can change that sad day," he said.
Fang said "the tragedy has served as a catalyst to change the future of BART" and the agency's Police Department in particular.
He said that, along with hiring an independent firm to analyze the areas that need improvement in the department, the agency is also on the
verge of implementing independent oversight of the police force - the result of a new bill that still needs to be signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
He said BART has accepted responsibility for the shooting. In a civil case, a federal judge helped mediate a $1.5 million settlement to
provide for Grant's 6-year-old daughter Tatiana.
Fang said he hopes the response to today's verdict won't hurt the Bay Area.
"Oakland -- indeed the whole Bay Area -- is one of the best places to live in the entire world," he said. "We must not let the initial emotional
reaction of the verdict have long-lasting negative effects on the place we call home."
Today was the jury's first full day of deliberations after they suspended talks yesterday because a juror had a doctor's appointment.
The approaching verdict in the trial of former BART police Officer Mehserle has had communities and businesses on edge for days. Mehserle, 28, was charged with murder for the shooting death of unarmed passenger Oscar Grant III, a 22-year-old Hayward man, on the platform of the Fruitvale station in Oakland shortly early on New Year's Day 2009.
In Oakland, some businesses have boarded up their windows, although recently most stores downtown appeared to be open for business as usual.
Bay Area police and community leaders including those in the Tri-Valley were also anxiously awaiting the verdict, hoping for calm when the jury's decision is announced.
In the Tri-Valley, local agencies were making sure they're prepared for any civil unrest following the announcement of the verdict. BART was providing guidance and information to its ridership in the event problems occur at any BART stations, including the Dublin/Pleasanton station. Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti also said that his city is prepared in the event of any local unrest.
"While it is not anticipated that civil unrest will occur in Dublin, the city's police and fire Services have planned and prepared for this possibility and are coordinating with public safety agencies throughout the Bay Area for mutual aid requests, should it be necessary," Sbranti said.
Police in Pleasanton were deciding their actions on a day-to-day basis. The department went to 12-hour shifts with no days off and sent officers home if the jury left for the day without a verdict, a spokesman said.
Pleasanton police are also ready to head to Oakland "as soon as the mutual aid button is pushed," said Lt. Mike Elerick.
He said the department went to 12-hour shifts last week in anticipation of a jury verdict in the trial and possible unrest that could lead to a call for aid from outlying law enforcement districts.
Two Subway sandwich shops in downtown Oakland illustrate businesses' different approaches. One, at 1312 Broadway isn't boarded up even though it's very close to the intersection of 14th Street and Broadway, where several groups have said they will hold rallies after the verdict is announced.
A Subway restaurant at 14th and Madison streets, six blocks away, is boarded up but remains open. It's on the ground-floor level of a condominium complex at that site.
At the intersection of 13th Street and Broadway, a T-Mobile cell phone store and a Burger King restaurant are both boarded up but open for business.
All of the businesses at City Center Plaza, bounded by Broadway and Clay Street and 12th and 14th streets, are open for business today including Starbucks and Quiznos; the only business that's boarded up there is a Patelco Credit Union branch bank.
Crews were setting up a bandstand in the middle of the plaza this morning for the Joe Bagale Soul band to perform at noon as part of Oakland's "Summer Sounds" series.
But on 17th Street between Franklin and Webster streets, which was hit by violence in protests in January 2009, a number of businesses are boarded up, including a Mexican restaurant, a Japanese restaurant, a smoothie shop and two coffee shops.
The People's Choice Printing shop at 1525 Webster St. has numerous small posters that state "Justice For Oscar Grant" and one large poster of Grant.
A light pole at the corner of 14th and Jackson streets has a small poster with a photo of Oscar Grant with the message "We Don't Forget," as well as a small poster with a photo of Mehserle that states "We Don't Forgive."