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Center for Spiritual Living - "I never would have done it otherwise."

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Oakland, California

Kwame Nitoto never thought he would find himself defending Johannes Mehserle to a complete stranger.
Like many Oakland residents, Nitoto, a father of four and project director for Oakland Parents Together, was outraged when Mehserle, then a 28-year-old BART police officer, shot and killed 22-year-old Oscar Grant III on Jan. 1, 2009.

But sitting in a room of Oakland's Church of Religious Science last week as part of a Community Dialogues and Peacekeeper Training workshop, Nitoto reached deep inside and tried to find some measure of compassion for Mehserle.

After the exercise, a slightly stunned Nitoto confessed how the shift in perspective had affected him. "I wish you hadn't put me in that position," he said to the assembled participants. "I needed it. I never would have done it otherwise."

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