Ex-BART cop accused of murder in rare group

21Feb09

cop-gun-cuffsIt began as a routine radio call. A young woman, parked in a Walgreens drive-through lane with her year-old son in the backseat, was trying to pass a bogus prescription.

But as Officer Dan Lovelace steered his motorcycle toward the pharmacy in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler on Oct. 11, 2002, he was on his way to becoming something extraordinary: a cop accused of murder.

More than 350 people are killed in the United States each year by police officers. But prosecutors rarely file the ultimate charge, as they did against Lovelace and as they did against former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle, who shot an unarmed man early New Year’s Day on an Oakland train platform.

And if history is any guide, Mehserle has a good chance of avoiding serious punishment – just as Lovelace did after jurors accepted his account of why he fatally shot the drugstore suspect when she tried to drive off.

The Chronicle found just six cases in the past 15 years – not including the BART shooting – in which murder charges had been filed against officers who killed people in the line of duty.

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