Oakland protesters get prison for looting

Three men have been sentenced to 16 months in state prison for looting the Smart & Final store in downtown Oakland early last November during a protest following the decision not to indict Ferguson, Missouri, police Officer Darren Wilson.

Shawn Gatison, 26, Tony Casey, 52, and Davontae Smith, 25, pleaded no contest to second-degree commercial burglary on March 25 and were sentenced by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Paul Delucchi on Thursday.

The men were arrested at the end of a large protest in Oakland that took place after the announcement of a grand jury decision not to indict Wilson, who is white, for the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9. The protest was one of a series of such events that occurred in the Bay Area last year in response to the deaths of Brown and other unarmed black men and boys at the hands of police.

Prosecutors alleged that all three men had prior felony convictions.

Oakland police said in probable cause statements that undercover officers saw Gatison, Casey and Smith forcing entry into the Smart & Final store at 933 Broadway shortly after midnight on Nov. 25, 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 west 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 alleged that protesters who stole bottles from the Smart & Final store used them to throw at officers.

After the three men were arraigned on Dec. 1, Gatison’s attorney, Jeff Wozniak, said Gatison was a close friend of Oscar Grant III. Grant was an unarmed black man who was fatally shot by former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle, who is white, on Jan. 1, 2009, when officers responded to the Fruitvale station in Oakland, after receiving a report that there had been a fight on a train.

Wozniak said Gatison participated in the protest in Oakland 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.