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Kamala Harris not Alameda County DA when white officer shot Black man on train platform

August 13, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: Kamala Harris was district attorney when 22-year-old Oscar Grant was fatally shot by police on an Oakland, California, train platform in Alameda County. 

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The Associated Press reported at the time of the 2009 shooting that the Alameda County district attorney was Tom Orloff, not Harris.

THE FACTS: Posts online are criticizing Harris’s criminal justice record after the senator was selected as the Democratic vice presidential candidate on Tuesday. 

Posts circulated on Facebook and Twitter Wednesday and Thursday falsely suggesting that Harris was overseeing prosecutions in Alameda County when Grant, a 22-year-old black man, was fatally shot by a white Bay Area Rapid Transit officer on a train platform on New Year’s Day in 2009. Grant and other train passengers were taken off the train after police received reports of fighting as passengers were heading home from New Year’s Eve celebrations. 


The district attorney at the time of the case was Tom Orloff. The AP reported in 2009 that Orloff’s office investigated the incident and filed a murder charge against the officer, Johannes Mehserle. Nancy O’Malley was appointed to serve as district attorney following Orloff’s retirement. During her time as district attorney, she oversaw Mehserle’s murder trial and later his conviction for involuntary manslaughter.

According to the State of California Department of Justice website, Harris worked in the Alameda County District Attorney’s office from 1990 to 1998, more than a decade before Grant’s fatal shooting in 2009. She joined the office after graduating from University of California, Hastings College of the Law. She prosecuted child sexual assault cases. She served as deputy district attorney in Alameda County before leaving to  work in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office. Harris served as attorney general of California from 2011 to 2017. 

Grant’s death, which sparked massive protests, was one of the first police shootings captured on video by bystanders and death sparked massive protests.


This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: