Prosecutors today charged three men with second-degree commercial burglary for looting the Smart & Final store in downtown Oakland early last Tuesday morning in a protest following the decision not to indict Ferguson, Missouri, police Officer Darren Wilson.
The three men were arraigned in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland late this afternoon at a hearing that was attended by a large group of supporters.
Large protests were held in Oakland last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights following a grand jury’s decision not to indict Wilson, who is white, for the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9, who is black.
Police arrested at least 135 people in the protests, which included the temporary closures of several freeways and vandalism at many businesses but the three men are the only people charged with felonies so far.
The three men are 51-year-old Tony Casey, 25-year-old Davontae Smith and 26-year-old Shawn Gatison.
Casey is being held in custody in lieu of $635,00 bail and Smith is being held in lieu of $30,000 bail as well as a no-bail hold on an alleged probation violation. Gatison is free on $70,000 bail.
Prosecutors alleged that Casey has four prior felony convictions: three for second-degree robbery and one for second-degree commercial burglary.
Prosecutors also allege that Smith has two prior felony convictions: one for possession of a firearm by a felon and one for grand theft.
In addition, prosecutors allege that Gatison has a prior conviction for second-degree commercial burglary.
Oakland police said in probable cause statements for the three men that undercover officers saw them forcing entry into the Smart & Final store at 933 Broadway shortly after midnight last Tuesday and saw Smith and Gatison leaving the business with various goods.
Officer Bryan Pong said officers saw Casey leave the store with a garbage bag full of liquor.
Pong said officers tried to stop Casey but he immediately dropped the bag, destroying the liquor bottles, and ran westbound on Ninth Street.
He said officers chased Casey and apprehended him nearby without incident.
Officers who searched Casey found more liquor bottles in his backpack, Pong said.
Oakland police Chief Sean Whent said last Tuesday that protesters who stole bottles from the Smart & Final store used them to throw at officers.
Gatison’s attorney, Jeff Wozniak, said after the arraignment that Gatison was a close friend of Oscar Grant III, an unarmed black man who was fatally shot by former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle, who is white, when officers responded to the Fruitvale station in Oakland on Jan. 1, 2009.
Wozniak said Gatison participated in the protest in Oakland last week because, “He saw the same thing happening in Ferguson, Missouri, as happened to Oscar Grant.”
Gatison was upset that the grand jury “didn’t hold Wilson accountable,” Wozniak said.
The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office charged Mehserle with murder but he was convicted of the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to two years in custody.
Oakland civil rights attorney Dan Siegel, who finished fifth in the crowded Oakland mayoral election last month, said he came to court today to represent several protesters who had been arrested during the protests and held in custody over the long Thanksgiving weekend but none of them were charged.
The trio is scheduled to return to Alameda County Superior Court on Dec. 8 to enter pleas.
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