Shot down by Pasadena cops

April 23, 2012

Michael Brown reports on another African American victim of police in Pasadena.

ANYA SLAUGHTER still calls her son Kendrec's cell phone hoping that he'll answer, but knowing that he never will.

That's what civil rights attorney Caree Harper told more than 150 protesters at an April 10 rally for 19-year-old college student Kendrec McDade, who was killed by police in Pasadena, Calif., on March 24.

Harper, who is representing McDade's family, was part of a protest representing community organizations and the faith community, which gathered on the steps of Pasadena City Hall. Demonstrators wanted to call attention to McDade's killing and connect it to the case of Trayvon Martin.

The rally was organized by the Pasadena branch of the NAACP and featured a cross-section of speakers and activists from organizations such as the Pasadena Community Coalition, Occupy Pasadena, Pasadena's Armenian Center, the ACLU, Occupy the Hood Los Angeles, local students and Service Employees International Union-United Long Term Care Workers.

"Kendrec is just like Trayvon," said Pasadena City College student Devian Fuller. "This racial profiling is just too much. This was my first time attending any kind of rally, but [we have] to keep pressure on the police, so that this isn't covered up."

Rally for Kendrec in Pasadena sw1.jpg
(Michael Brown)

McDade, who is Black, was shot multiple times by Pasadena police officers Mathew Griffin and Jeffrey Newlen, both white.

The killing was set in motion by a 911 caller who said two Black men had stolen his backpack, with a laptop and two cell phones inside. The caller, Oscar Carrillo, claimed both men were armed, a claim he later admitted to fabricating.

A squad car was dispatched, which then pursued McDade, who was running. Pasadena police claimed McDade was moving "his hand toward his waistband" while approaching the squad car when the police cruiser's driver, Griffin, "fearing for his life," opened fire, hitting McDade from the moving vehicle.

Griffin's partner, Newlen--who at some point exited the vehicle and pursued McDade on foot--also fired upon hearing the shots, hitting the teenager.

Pasadena police admit that while pursuing McDade, Griffin failed to turn on the cruiser's sirens and lights, which would have activated the car's camera.

After he was shot, McDade was handcuffed and "began to twitch." He later succumbed to his wounds at a hospital, according to a civil rights lawsuit filed against the city and police department by the McDade family. The lawsuit also claims that the police failed to identify themselves or verbally instruct McDade to halt.

SOON AFTER McDade's killing, community outrage began to grow after further details emerged.

Police claimed that McDade and his 17-year-old alleged accomplice were caught on video surveillance taking the backpack. However, Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez told a selected group of local civic leaders during a private meeting that videotape of the alleged robbery didn't exist, but "still photographs" did, according to the Pasadena Star-News. As this article was being written, police had still not released the photos.

During the same meeting, Sanchez said the backpack had been recovered without its alleged contents after the 17-year-old--apprehended by police the night of McDade's killing--accompanied cops on a ride-along days later.

Members of the community were also outraged over Sanchez's claim that "the actions of the 911 caller set the minds of the officers," leading to the killing. Caree Harper fired back in a quote in the Los Angeles Times: "The officers pulled the trigger. The chief is trying to shift the blame."

Harper's comment was supported by the police department's decision, after several days of community pressure, to charge Carrillo, the 911 caller, with involuntary manslaughter and hold him in a city jail for six days.

The district attorney rejected the charge, however, and upon Carrillo's release, he was immediately turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Carrillo has been released, but with a deportation order that has been postponed until the criminal proceedings conclude, according to officials.

At the rally, the national scope of police brutality and violence was illustrated by signs showing pictures of Trayvon Martin, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant and Rekia Boyd.

James Smith, vice president of the NAACP's Pasadena branch, talked about the sordid history of police in the city, where cases of brutality have been "permeating for 60 years, he said. "The Pasadena Police Department has had this policy for a long time, and we want to put them on notice right now to let them know it is over," said Smith.

McDades's father Kenneth said, "Somebody cut him down for no reason. Somebody's got to be held accountable. As long as I've got life in my body, I'm going to find out what happened to my son."

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