Court Re-Unseals Pasadena Shooting Excerpts, but Report Stays Under Wraps

Monday, April 20, 2015
Kendrec McDade

Shortly after two white police officers shot and killed an unarmed 19-year-old Pasadena robbery suspect in 2012, the city asked the Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review to conduct an investigation of the shooting.

That long-ago completed review has never been released to the public in its entirety, although portions have surfaced in court proceedings. The Pasadena police union opposes its release. 

Last Friday, the California Second District Court of Appeal rescinded, without comment, an earlier seal it put on excerpts from the report contained in a legal document, thus extending an odd process of now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t transparency that continues to leave family, friends and the community ill-informed about what happened to Kendrec McDade three years ago.

McDade was killed by police after a 911 caller reported an armed robbery of his laptop and backpack. The caller later admitted the two guys did not have guns and the stuff was taken out of his car without a confrontation. Police officers Mathew Griffin and Jeffrey Newle arrived in a patrol car and spotted McDade and another man on foot.

The two men split up and the cops followed McDade, but not before smashing into a wall trying to get out of a taco stand parking lot. They eventually closed in on McDade, one officer on foot, before shooting him seven times in a crossfire. The officer in the car fired first out his window.

Both officers said McDade reached for his waistband. There is no video evidence. The dash camera was not automatically activated because the officers did not turn on their emergency lights or siren. They also did not use their spotlight or loudspeaker to ask McDade to stop. No gun, backpack or laptop was found.  

The officers were cleared of wrongdoing by a police department internal review and the county District Attorney’s office.

California affords a measure of privacy to police personnel records via the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act, but questions remained about the sequence of events that led to McDade’s death and the public wanted to see what independent investigators knew.

The legal document unsealed by the court was a legal brief from the Pasadena Police Officers Association (PPOA), which bolstered its argument that the report should not be made public by including 10 excerpts from it.

Oops. The brief was public record for nine days, and a number of people obtained copies before the PPOA got a court order requiring they be returned and the document resealed.

But it was too late. The Pasadena Star News had already published the material. Report snippets faulted the officers for following the suspect into the alley, leaving themselves vulnerable and susceptible to doing something stupid.

One officer got out of the car, although policy is cops stay together in a chase. The book also recommends that chases of suspected armed robbers be done at a safe distance. They didn’t do that. (“Officer Griffin's ‘cut off’ and ‘boxing in’ maneuver is troubling.”)

The report questioned “Officer Griffin's decision to unholster his weapon and steer with one hand as they proceed through the narrow passage” which “may have contributed to the cause of the collision.”

And then there was this. “Officer’s Griffin’s ‘failure to place his vehicle in park before exiting his vehicle after the shooting' was a ‘potentially disastrous mistake.’ ” The ordeal endured by the two pumped up, pissed off cops breaking the rules in a dark alley led to “the eventual perceived need to use deadly force.”

The parents received a $1-million settlement with the city last June.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Court Reverses Decision to Seal Document Regarding McDade Shooting in Pasadena (by Brian Day, San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

Court Rescinds Sealing Order on Pasadena Shooting Report Excerpts (by Victoria Kim, Los Angeles Times)

When Worlds Collide (by André Coleman and Kevin Uhrich, Pasadena Weekly)

Police Privilege and Kendrec McDade (by Emmet, DailyKos)

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