PASADENA — A 74-page report into the fatal shooting of a 19-year-old unarmed black man by Pasadena police was made public Nov. 17, with some redactions, after a judge rejected a last-minute request by the police officers’ union to block its release.
The report, prepared at the city’s request by the Office of Independent Review, examined the actions of the officers involved in the shooting and the ensuing investigation. The report, which was posted on the city’s website following the ruling by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant, questions some of the tactics used by the officers and the thoroughness of the department’s internal investigation of the shooting.
Kendrec McDade was fatally shot by Pasadena police officers Mathew Griffin and Jeffrey Newlen in March 2012. An internal probe resulted in both officers being cleared by an internal investigation and by the District Attorney’s Office.
The officers responded to the area of the shooting in response to a 911 call reporting an armed robbery. In the days following the shooting, authorities said the person who made the call, Oscar Carrillo-Gonzalez, lied about being robbed by armed assailants, believing police would respond faster if they thought the suspects had guns.
Carrillo-Gonzalez pleaded guilty in June 2013 to two misdemeanor charges and was sentenced to 180 days split between jail and a Caltrans work crew.
The city of Pasadena last year paid more than $1 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit filed by McDade’s parents.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office conducted an investigation and concluded that “the officers acted in lawful self-defense and defense of others.” An internal review by the police department concluded that the officers had acted within departmental policy in the shooting.
McDade’s shooting led to an outcry from his relatives and activists who claimed police used excessive force by opening fire on the unarmed man.
The shooting came more than two years before similar shootings of Ezell Ford in South Los Angeles, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Tamir Rice in Cleveland, that have stirred black activists in the past year.
The city of Pasadena asked the Office of Independent Review to investigate the shooting, and its report, dated August 2014, has been the subject of legal wrangling ever since, with the police union seeking to block its release and McDade’s parents and other groups pushing for it to be made public.
Chalfant ordered that the report be released last year. The police union appealed, but lost, leading to Chalfant’s most recent ruling.
Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek said the city was “pleased” with Chalfant’s decision ordering the release of the redacted report, saying it is “consistent with the city’s position that we need to be transparent by releasing as much as legally possible so that the community has the opportunity to read the report.”
The report credits the Pasadena Police Department for already taking steps to address some of the concerns address by the report. But it also raises concerns about the handling of the review, and the tactics of the officers.
According to the report, the department’s Review Board did order some training for officers in response to the shooting, but “we are not persuaded that the department did all that it could to ensure that issues and concerns about the shooting were effectively communicated back to the involved personnel and the department as a whole.”
“The department concluded that the involved officers did the best they could under ‘chaotic’ circumstances,” the report said. “In our view, it is precisely the “chaotic’ circumstances that demand officer restraint and the development of a thoughtful and safe tactical apprehension plan.
“In our report, we enumerate at least 10 tactical decisions made by the involved officers that were not congruent with principles of officer safety that both may have contributed to a heightened level of fear and caused the driver officer to place himself in an unsafe position so that when Mr. McDade suddenly turned in his direction, Officer Griffin felt he had no choice but to use deadly force.”
According to the report, the police department declined a recommendation to conduct an internal investigation into the officers’ decision-making and to re-interview them about their compliance with department policy.