Anya Slaughter, right, follows her son's casket during a service… (Christina House, For the…)
Hundreds of family members, friends and supporters attended a funeral service Saturday for Kendrec "Mac" McDade, a 19-year-old college student who was unarmed when he was shot and killed by two Pasadena police officers.
About 400 people trickled inside the Metropolitan Baptist Church in Altadena to pay tribute to the Citrus College student, whose family has filed wrongful death and civil rights complaints against the city. The American Civil Liberties Union and the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People have also raised concerns about the shooting.
On Friday, the FBI announced that it would open a civil rights investigation into the McDade case. An FBI spokeswoman said the inquiry was launched independently of a call by Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez for the bureau to look into the shooting.
The incident follows the controversial shooting of Trayvon Martin, which has garnered national media attention. The unarmed Florida teenager was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch leader.
The Pasadena shooting has raised questions about the responsibility of people who report crimes and the possible excessive use of force by law enforcement officers.
The officer-involved shooting occurred March 24 after a 911 caller said two men had stolen his backpack and that both had guns. Police said officers were in pursuit of McDade, on foot and in a squad car, when McDade quickly approached the squad car and reached for his waistband. Police said the officer in the car, fearing for his life, fired several shots. The officer on foot also fired, in an effort to protect his colleague, police said.
Authorities later identified the shooting officers as Mathew Griffin, a seven-year veteran of the department, and Jeff Newlen, a six-year veteran.
The caller, Oscar Carrillo, later admitted to police that he fabricated the detail about the suspects being armed and was charged with involuntary manslaughter.
During a recent town hall meeting to address mounting community anxiety about the late-night shooting, Chief Sanchez attempted to answer questions.
But more concerns were raised when Sanchez said the police car's camera did not record the event because the officers never activated the vehicle's lights and sirens, which would have turned on the camera.
Sanchez said he has asked the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's Office of Independent Review to investigate the case.
During Saturday's service, family, friends and Azusa High School classmates remembered McDade as a young, smiling man who was successful not only academically but on the field. The football star's jersey was folded in a framed case next to a collage of photos inside the church.
White flowers, some in the form of a cross, were laid out at the front of the sanctuary and on top of McDade's white casket.
Speaking with a quavering voice, McDade's mother, Anya Slaughter, said she was thankful to God for having 19 years with her son. "You'll remain in my heart forever," she said. "Promise me you'll be at the gate when God decides to call me home."