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Pasadena officers who killed teen acted lawfully, prosecutors say

The D.A.'s office says the two Pasadena police officers who fatally shot Kendrec McDade reasonably believed he was armed with a gun.

December 18, 2012|By Richard Winton and Adolfo Flores, Los Angeles Times
  • In this undated family photo Kendrec McDade is seen as a high school student. In March, when he was a 19-year-old college student, McDade was fatally shot by two Pasadena police officers. The controversial shooting sparked protests and outrage in Pasadena, with some drawing comparisons to the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida.
In this undated family photo Kendrec McDade is seen as a high school student.… (McDade Family File Photo,…)

Pasadena police officers acted lawfully when they fatally shot an unarmed college student in March, prosecutors said Monday.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office found the two officers reasonably believed Kendrec McDade, 19, was armed with a gun based on false information from a 911 caller. A report issued Monday also noted the position of McDade's hand at his waistband during a foot pursuit by the officers.

The controversial shooting sparked protests and outrage in Pasadena, with some drawing comparisons to the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida. McDade was killed March 24 when officers Jeffrey Newlen and Mathew Griffin, responding to a report of an armed robbery of a man by two men near a taco truck in northwest Pasadena, chased McDade onto a dark nearby side street.

DOCUMENT: Read the report on the shooting

"The actions of McDade during the pursuit in conjunction with the information known to the officers at the time of the shooting reasonably created a fear of imminent death or serious bodily injury," Deputy Dist. Atty. Deborah A. Delport wrote in a report declining to charge the officers. "Once the officers perceived that McDade posed an apparent lethal threat their response with deadly force was justified."

Prosecutors revealed that after one officer shot and wounded McDade, the second officer, believing McDade had opened fire, shot him again.

McDade fled up Sunset Avenue with his right hand at his waist, leading officers to believe he had a gun, according to prosecutors. Griffin sped past McDade in a patrol cruiser and blocked the street as Newlen chased him on foot, according to the report. McDade then ran directly toward the vehicle, where Griffin was seated, the prosecutor wrote.

"He left the sidewalk and he's running at me," Griffin told investigators. "This — this scares the crap out of me. I don't know why he is running at me. He's still clutching his waistband. I think he's got a gun. I'm stuck in the car. I got nowhere to go."

Fearing for his life, Griffin said, he fired four times through the open driver's side window. McDade was two or three feet away. Griffin said he then ducked down to his right to avoid being hit by shots he expected from McDade. He heard two shots and believed McDade had fired at him.

Newlen told investigators he heard gunshots and believed McDade "was firing at Griffin." He described seeing McDade walk toward the rear of the car and crouch down. Newlen said he heard another gunshot and saw a muzzle flash. Believing McDade was firing at him, Newlen fired four or five shots at McDade, who fell to the ground.

McDade was later found to be unarmed. He was carrying a cellphone in his pocket. He died after being taken to Huntington Memorial Hospital.

The incident began when Oscar Carrillo reported that his computer had been stolen, falsely telling police eight times that he had been robbed at gunpoint.

A security video shows a teenage companion of McDade's taking a computer from Carrillo's car. McDade is seen at the rear of the car. The footage shows no weapon or confrontation.

Carrillo later recanted and conceded he believed police would respond quicker if he reported that a gun was involved. Police arrested him on suspicion of manslaughter, but prosecutors declined to charge him. The shooting has prompted four inquiries and a lawsuit. In the federal suit, McDade's parents, Anya Slaughter and Kenneth McDade, allege their son was shot multiple times in the chest but did not die immediately. McDade was handcuffed and left on the street for a prolonged period of time without receiving first aid, the parents allege.

Dale Galipo, a lawyer representing the mother, said he was "disappointed but not surprised" at Monday's decision. "The only time they prosecute is when they have no choice due to public and political pressure and when it's caught on video."

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