Coming to terms
Parents settle lawsuits filed against the city following officer-involved death of their son
By André Coleman 06/12/2014
The parents of an unarmed teenager killed by Pasadena police officers reached a settlement with the city on the eve of going to trial.
As part of their settlement agreements, Anya Slaughter and Kenneth McDade have agreed to drop their respective federal lawsuits filed against the city after officers shot and killed their son, Kendrec McDade, 19, on March 24, 2012. Trial was set to begin Tuesday.
“The parties have reached an agreement,” City Attorney Michele Beal-Bagneris said on Tuesday. “The plaintiffs stipulated they would file a dismissal. That’s all I can say.”
Bagneris was prohibited from disclosing the amount of the settlements. Both parents declined to comment following the proceedings in federal court. Slaughter reached a settlement on Friday, while Kenneth McDade’s settlement agreement was announced in court Tuesday.
Slaughter was represented by attorney Dale Galipo. Kenneth McDade was represented by attorney Caree Harper.
After US District Judge Dolly Gee announced that both sides had reached a settlement, Harper hurried out of the courtroom and did not speak to reporters. Galipo was represented at the hearing by another attorney from his office.
Local activists told the Pasadena Weekly they were happy that settlement agreements were reached, but still called for more accountability from the Police Department.
“If she is satisfied with the settlement, I am happy for her and I hope it brings some peace to the family,” said local attorney Elbie Hickambottom Jr., who represents the NAACP Pasadena Branch on an ACLU-led coalition. The coalition hopes to form a civilian oversight committee that would examine use-of-force incidents involving Pasadena police. “But there needs to be more openness about the shooting from the Pasadena Police Department. The department ruled this shooting was legal, but a judge has denied several motions filed by the city and now the city has settled with the mom because they see some sort of liability.”
On April 1, Gee denied a motion for summary judgment filed by the city’s attorneys to have the case dismissed. In a separate motion to dismiss evidence, attorneys for the city argued that an officer can use deadly force if he or she has probable cause to believe a suspect represents a danger to police or the community. Attorneys for the city claimed the officers had probable cause to believe McDade was armed due to a 911 call placed by Oscar Carrillo-Gonzales, who lied eight times to a 911 dispatcher about McDade and an accomplice being armed at the time he was robbed. Carrillo-Gonzales later served 90 days in jail after pleading guilty to two counts of filing false police reports.
Shots in the dark
Authorities say Carrillo-Gonzales called 911 shortly after 11 p.m. on March 24, 2012, after McDade and an unidentified 17-year-old friend stole a laptop from a BMW parked near a taco stand in Northwest Pasadena. In the 911 call, Carrillo-Gonzales told police that he had been robbed at gunpoint in order to prompt a quicker response from authorities.
According to a report released by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, when Officers Jeffrey Newlen and Matthew Griffin arrived on the scene in their police cruiser they saw McDade running near Fair Oaks Avenue and Orange Grove Boulevard. McDade, they said, kept one hand on his waistband, which furthered their suspicions.
After McDade headed north on Sunset Avenue, a short distance from his father’s home, Newlen got out of the vehicle and put out a radio broadcast that he was pursuing McDade on foot.
Griffin passed McDade and stopped his police cruiser in front of him in an attempt to contain his movements. McDade ran a few steps past the car and then inexplicably turned and moved toward the police car. Griffin said this move left him fearful that he was about to come under attack by McDade, who he still believed was armed.
“He left the sidewalk and he’s running at me,” Griffin told the District Attorney’s Office. “This scares the crap out of me. I don’t know why he’s 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.”
Griffin opened fire and struck McDade several times. Newlen thought his partner had come under fire and began firing at McDade.
According to Los Angeles County Medical Examiner Ogbonna Chinwah, McDade suffered three fatal gunshot wounds to the abdomen and four nonfatal wounds to the left hip, left elbow, right arm and right forearm. After being shot, he was handcuffed and began twitching as he lay in the street. A bleeding and confused McDade asked a paramedic, “Why did they shoot me?”
The officers were ultimately exonerated by the DA’s Office, the Pasadena Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
“The point is that they are fighting against problems in the system,” local attorney and former mayoral candidate Phillip Koebel said of McDade’s parents. “I’m proud of them for settling,” Koebel said. “I don’t think settling reveals any weakness. I hope they have found resolution.”
Searching for answers
The shooting sparked outrage. After former NAACP president and former Harper ally Joe Brown went forward with plans allowing Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez to host the annual Ruby McKnight Williams award, an angry Harper appeared before the group and pleaded with members to run against Brown. Brown eventually resigned and was replaced by Gary Moody.
The shooting also reignited the decades-old discussion of how African Americans should react during encounters with the Police Department.
More than 50 people showed up at a rally outside City Hall and the Rev. Jesse Jackson met with Sanchez and McDade’s parents before speaking to students at Pasadena High School.
Almost immediately after the shooting, Sanchez asked the Office of Independent Review (OIR) to open a probe into the shooting. OIR Lead Attorney Michael Gennaco told the Weekly in April that his group had almost completed its investigation of the incident. So far, a completed report has not been released. An assistant in Gennaco’s office told the Weekly that Gennaco is currently in Peru on vacation and will not return until Monday.
The OIR was established by the Board of Supervisors to investigate shootings and other incidents involving sheriff’s deputies and officers with other law enforcement agencies, including Pasadena. Its staff investigates procedural and policy matters involved with a given case.
The Pasadena department announced in February that the OIR would no longer investigate its officer-involved shootings. Sanchez said the Sheriff’s Department would best investigate future shootings involving officers.
“We are well past the point of criminal prosecution for these officers,” Hickambottom said. “Beyond that, we need to look at the policy. I don’t think the suppression of the OIR report is coincidental.”