OAKLAND — The city went to court Thursday seeking thousands of dollars in damages from four people charged with vandalism and other crimes in the violent aftermath of the conviction of former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle.
Police arrested 78 people, and the Alameda County District Attorney’s office later charged at least 17 with felonies and misdemeanors on suspicion of a wide range of crimes. At least two dozen businesses reported $700,000 worth of damage, police said.
The city filed a lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court against Terry Williams, 33, of Oakland, who was charged with second-degree burglary and remains in Santa Rita Jail in Dublin on a no-bail parole violation. Also named in the suit are Raquel Sharp, 29, of Oakland, who was charged with misdemeanors, including rioting, failure to disperse and two counts of vandalism; Paul Rousseau, 25, of Oakland, who was charged with attempted robbery and two counts of vandalism; and Gerald Dugas, 20, of Castro Valley, charged with burglary and receiving stolen property. Dugas has pleaded not guilty to his charges but pleas for the others were not available.
The lawsuit seeks a total of $100,000 from Dugas and Williams, and unspecified damages from Rousseau and Sharp.
None of the four or their attorneys were immediately available for comment Thursday. Except for Williams, all will be back in court for further court hearings in their cases in November and December.
Attorney John Russo said those arrested robbed businesses, incited chaos and set fires.
“Sadly, it appears they were here for no other reason than to get an emotional rush from destruction of property, theft and lawlessness. Oakland will not tolerate this disrespect,” Russo said.
Russo’s spokesman Alex Katz said the city has enough evidence, including videotape of two of the accused, to sue them. He also called the civil lawsuit a “unique” move for the city.
A Los Angeles jury found Mehserle guilty of involuntary manslaughter July 8 in the killing of Oscar Grant III, 22, of Hayward on Jan. 1, 2009. Mehserle shot an unarmed Grant as he lay facedown on the Fruitvale BART platform after a fight on the train.
Many people who thought the former BART officer should have been convicted of murder gathered in downtown Oakland to voice their displeasure. Within hours, a mostly peaceful demonstration turned violent as groups of protesters ran through downtown Oakland, smashing storefront windows, stealing merchandise, setting trash bins on fire and clashing with police.
Rousseau and Sharp, who were arrested that night after spray painting graffiti on public property in Frank Ogawa Plaza, were both captured on video by Oakland police officers, according to the suit. Rousseau also tried to punch an undercover officer and attempted to steal the officer’s camera, according to the suit.
“Rousseau swung his fist at the officer twice and missed,” the suit says.
The other two defendants — Dugas and Williams — were arrested with stolen jewelry, police said. Amid the protest, a crowd broke through the security gate at JC Jewelry on Broadway, kicked in a window, punched one of the owners in the face and made off with more than $50,000 in property, police said.
When police searched Williams, they found five gold teeth pieces that appeared new and unused, according to the suit. Williams said “he felt stupid for stealing gold teeth when he already had some in his mouth,” according to the suit. The suit says Dugas stole jewelry from JC Jewelry.
“Oakland welcomes thousands of visitors and residents to our city. Never do we invite violence or the trashing of the businesses that provide jobs, goods and services to our residents and visitors,” said Joseph Haraburda, president the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.