January 16, 2009

OAKLAND, California (CNN) — A former police officer for the Bay Area transit system pleaded not guilty Thursday in the New Year’s Day shooting of a passenger at an Oakland rail station.

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Johannes Mehserle, 27, appeared in a packed Alameda County courtroom, with his supporters separated by a courtroom aisle from relatives of shooting victim Oscar Grant III and other spectators. Mehserle is charged with shooting Grant, 22, in an incident that spurred violent protests in Oakland after being captured on video.

Mehserle resigned his job as a Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer days after the shooting, and he was arrested in Nevada earlier this week. Thursday’s proceedings took less than five minutes, with Mehserle appearing behind heavy windows in an enclosure out of view of all but a handful of spectators.

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