Oakland residents were bracing themselves tonight for riots, should white former transit police officer Johannes Mehserle be cleared of shooting an unarmed black man in 2009. Tonight, Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter by an LA jury.

Mehserle fatally shot Oscar J. Grant II on New Years day, 2009, as he was lying facedown and handcuffed on the floor of a BART station near Oakland's airport. (A reader points out that Merhserle shot Grant while he was being handcuffed.) The shooting was captured on video and sparked violence and protests in the streets of Oakland. Mehserle claimed he had meant merely to tase Grant but accidentally pulled out his gun instead. The jury only partially bought this excuse, and convicted him tonight of involuntary manslaughter, for which he faces a 2-4 year prison sentence. The prosecuting lawyer was pushing for a second-degree murder conviction, and, according to SFist, Grant's family is "extremely disappointed" by the verdict.

No word yet on whether people have taken to the streets.

Update: Peaceful demonstrators have gathered in downtown Oakland, and the San Francisco Chronicle puts Mehserle's maximum possible jail time at much higher than 4 years:

Mehserle's possible sentence for involuntary manslaughter is two, three or four years, plus three, four or 10 years for using a gun. That means the minimum total sentence that Judge Robert Perry could impose would be five years, and the maximum would be 14 years.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/07/08/BAM21EBDOD.DTL&tsp=1#ixzz0t9HeEs8v