'Justice for Kendrec'
Pasadena leaders call for calm and clarity as McDade investigation continues
By André Coleman 04/12/2012
In a prepared statement released Wednesday, Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard and Councilman Chris Holden called for calm during three separate investigations into the March 24 officer-involved shooting death of unarmed 19-year-old Kendrec McDade of Azusa.
“Many questions have been raised about the shooting from city staff and members of the community,” reads the statement issued by Bogaard and Holden. “It is our expectation that questions will be answered clearly through the independent investigative process, regardless of the outcome. Our entire community needs to know the truth, as part of the healing process, as we move forward together. And, of course, the McDade family deserves the information necessary to help them understand how and why they lost their son.”
Hours after Bogaard and Holden called for cooler heads to prevail in Pasadena, Florida Special Prosecutor Angela Corey announced George Zimmerman would be charged with second degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year old Trayvon Martin. The unarmed youth was shot and killed on Feb. 26 by Zimmerman, a volunteer Neighborhood Watch patrolman.
Local activists have been comparing and contrasting the two cases since the death of McDade, a Citrus College student and athlete who was visiting his father in Pasadena the night he died.
The reaction of Pasadena council members and the arrest of Zimmerman came on the heels of a rally held Tuesday in front of Pasadena City Hall by some 70 demonstrators — among them the slain teen’s parents. Some protesters carried signs that read “Jail Killer Cops: Justice for Kendrec” and “Jobs Not Jails: Jobs Not Death.”
“This is an excellent time for us to talk about racial profiling,” said Martin Gordon of the Pasadena Community Coalition, which co-sponsored the rally along with the Pasadena Branch of the NAACP, the ACLU Pasadena Foothills Chapter and the InterMinisterial Alliance. “We want no more dead kids or adults by anyone, and that includes police and gangs,” Martin said.
“No more dead kids” was the mantra of former Pasadena Police Chief Bernard Melekian, who came to Pasadena in 1996, a period when the city was witnessing a rise in gang-related homicides. Included in the violence of the times were the horrific Halloween Murders of 1993, in which three school-age boys trick-or-treating near their homes were mistaken as gang members by real gang members and gunned down.
At Tuesday’s rally, some protesters invoked the names of other African-American men who had lost their lives at the hands of police, among them Leroy Barnes, a former gang member, who was shot 14 times in 2009 by Pasadena officers following an otherwise routine traffic stop gone wrong. Barnes was armed with a handgun at the time of the incident.
One marcher at Tuesday’s rally carried a sign in remembrance of popular local barber Michael Bryant, who was chased in cars and later on foot in 1993 by Pasadena, San Marino and Los Angeles police officers to an apartment building in nearby Highland Park. There, the overweight Bryant jumped into a swimming pool and was Tasered while standing waist-deep in the water. Bryant, who was later found to have traces of cocaine in his system, was then hogtied and placed on his chest on the backseat of a squad car. It was there that he died of cocaine intoxication and asphyxia due to restraint procedures, LA County District Attorney Joseph Shidler told the Los Angeles Times. The LA City Council later agreed to pay $885,000 to Bryant’s family.
In the McDade shooting death, the two officers involved — Jeff Newlen and Matthew Griffin — have been placed on paid administrative leave while the department investigates the incident. The case is also being reviewed by the Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review and the District Attorney’s Office. Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez has asked the FBI to also investigate the shooting.
“It is not about race,” said NAACP President Joe Brown. “This is about the officers making a mistake. Whether that mistake was a procedural mistake or an error in judgment is what we need to get down to. I don’t believe those officers got up with the intent of shooting an African American, but still a mistake was made by the officers. If the department acknowledges that, it will prevent more fallout in the community.”
McDade was shot by the two officers shortly after 11 p.m. on March 24, minutes after police were summoned to the corner of North Fair Oaks Avenue and Orange Grove Boulevard by 26-year-old Oscar Carrillo-Gonzalez, who alleged he was robbed at gunpoint by McDade and a 17-year-old male. Newlen and Griffin spotted McDade and chased him — one officer driving the squad car and firing from the vehicle, the other on foot and also firing — to nearby Sunset Avenue, where the unarmed McDade collapsed after being shot eight times. He was taken to Huntington Hospital, where he died from his injuries.
Carrillo-Gonzalez, who according to federal immigration officials had previously been deported back to Mexico and is currently in this country illegally, has admitted that he provided false information to get a faster police response and that he never saw a gun.
On Monday, Brown filed a state Public Request Act seeking Pasadena police policy as it relates to routine, tactical and robbery responses, as well as audio and video recording and firing a gun from a vehicle.
Last week, Caree Harper, the attorney for McDade’s family, filed a wrongful death lawsuit in US District Court against the Police Department, Sanchez, the two officers and Detective Keith Gomez, who is overseeing the local investigation of the shooting.
Ironically, the filing of that lawsuit gives police the legal justification to withhold the very documents that the NAACP has requested.
“I thought Chief Sanchez made some mistakes early on, but I applaud him for getting an independent review, and he revealed the names of the officers, which did not happen readily in our last case,” Gordon said, referring to the Barnes shooting three years ago, when Melekian was still police chief.
“Let’s not judge him now,” Gordon said. “Let’s judge him when the overall process is done.”