District attorney rules in favor of officers in McDade shooting death
By André Coleman 12/19/2012
Two Pasadena police officers believed they were under fire when they shot and killed an unarmed teenager in March, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
The DA’s investigation is but one of four separate probes into the shooting death of Kendrec McDade, 19. Others not yet complete include the FBI and the LA County Office of Independent Review, which reviews officer-involved shootings and other incidents involving the Sheriff’s Department and other county law enforcement agencies.
The two officers, Matthew Griffin and Jeffrey Newlen, have already been cleared by an internal police investigation of McDade’s shooting death. A second administrative investigation by Pasadena police is not yet complete.
The officers, Police Chief Phillip Sanchez and the city of Pasadena have been named as defendants in two separate federal lawsuits filed by the teen’s father, Kenneth McDade, and his mother, Anaya Slaughter.
“These incidents bear a significant emotional impact on the community and the Police Department,” Sanchez said in a prepared statement. “It is my desire that those impacted by this event will continue to heal as we await the final reports from the Office of Independent Review, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the administrative review by the Pasadena Police Department.”
In a letter to Sanchez, recently elected District Attorney Jackie Lacey said the DA’s Office concluded that Griffin and Newlen were acting in “lawful self-defense and defense of others” on March 24, when they shot and killed McDade, a football standout at Citrus College, on Sunset Avenue, a few blocks from his father’s home.
The officers, states the report, which quotes no other eyewitnesses to the 11 p.m. shooting, believed McDade was armed with a gun after Oscar Carrillo Gonzalez told a dispatch operator that he had been held up at gunpoint. According to the letter, Carrillo Gonzales mentioned the gun eight times during his 911 call. He later told police he lied about the weapon. The Pasadena City Attorney’s Office is considering filing charges against Carrillo Gonzales, who had been previously deported to Mexico in 2006 and is currently living in this country without proper documentation.
Claims that McDade was armed put the officers on high alert during the pursuit, according to the report. After Newlen left the vehicle and identified himself and ordered McDade to stop, Griffin attempted to stop his police cruiser in front of McDade on Sunset Avenue. McDade ran past the car and then inexplicably turned and ran toward the cruiser with his hands in his waistband, according to the report.
“He’s left the sidewalk and he’s running at me,” Griffin told investigators. “This — this scared the crap out of 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.”
Believing that McDade was attempting to gain a better position to shoot him, Griffin fired his weapon four times from inside the car and attempted to avoid return fire by ducking down into the passenger seat.
As he ducked down, Griffin said he heard two gunshots, which he believed came from McDade. But those shots were fired by Newlen, who saw McDade crouched near the car and believed he was shooting at Griffin. Newlen opened fire after McDade began to turn in his direction, the report states. Griffin and Newlen shot McDade eight times, three of those shots being fatal. Coroner investigators found traces of marijuana and alcohol in his system.