FILE: In this Jan 14, 2009 file photo, former Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer Johannes Mehserle, appears in the East Fork Justice Court in Minden, Nev. The former San Francisco Bay area transit officer convicted in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man that has drawn continuing protest was released from jail early Monday,June 13, 2011 after serving one year of a two-year sentence, officials said. AP Photo/Cathleen Allison, File
Johannes Mehserle, a former San Francisco Bay area transit officer who was in jail for fatally shooting an unarmed man was released on June 13, 2011 after serving 11 months of a two-year sentence.
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LOS ANGELES — A white former San Francisco Bay area transit officer convicted in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man that has drawn continuing protest was released from jail early Monday after serving one year of a two-year sentence, officials said.
Johannes Mehserle managed to slip away from the Los Angeles County's Twin Towers jail shortly after midnight unseen by a few protesters in the street as well as waiting reporters.
Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore told The Associated Press that Mehserle was freed from custody at 12:01 a.m. Monday.
Mehserle's attorney, Michael Rains, told KTVU-TV on Monday that precautions were taken because there were too many safety concerns to let his client just walk out of jail.
When asked if Mehserle can go home again, Rains said sounded optimistic.
"Well, we don't know. We'll know more about that in the next 10 days to two weeks," Rains said. "We hope he will be able to go home because he has always called Northern California home and he really doesn't want to call any place else home.
"But if he can't go home, he's going to call another place home and he will go there with his family and he will live a productive life."
Mehserle, 29, was convicted last July of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of Grant, 22, on a Bay Area Rapid Transit train station platform in Oakland on New Year's Day 2009.
He served his time in Los Angeles after his attention-getting trial was moved to Southern California.
The shooting continues to spark debate, racial tension and occasional protests that have turned violent. Last fall, more than 150 people were arrested in Oakland hours after Mehserle's sentencing.
About 25 people gathered Monday morning outside the county courthouse where Mehserle was tried. They planned to march to nearby U.S. Department of Justice offices to demand that federal charges be brought against Mehserle.
"We are here because there has been an injustice," said protester Julia Wallace.
On Sunday, about 300 protesters held a fairly peaceful demonstration in downtown Oakland as they vented their continued frustration over the shooting and the Mehserle's release.
"The people know it was wrong," said Jabari Shaw, 32, a protester who had also attended Mehserle's trial. "As much as we want justice, we're still not getting it."
A judge ruled Friday that Mehserle should be given credit for time served and good conduct.
The shooting was recorded by bystanders, and video posted online showed the Bay Area Rapid Transit officer firing a bullet into the back of Grant, 22, as he lay face down after being pulled off a train, suspected of fighting.
The videos were subsequently used as evidence during Mehserle's murder trial and posted online, further stoking the racial tensions brought on by the shooting.
Facing a second-degree murder charge and a maximum 14 years in prison, Mehserle tearfully testified at his trial that he meant to use his stun gun instead of his .40-caliber pistol.
Jurors found that while Mehserle didn't mean to kill Grant, his behavior was so negligent that it was criminal. He received a two-year sentence for involuntary manslaughter.
A civil lawsuit against Mehserle and several other officers involved with Grant's shooting is still pending.
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