Amid rising national tensions over the fatal shooting of a black teenager in Florida, Pasadena police on Saturday held a meeting to talk about the circumstances of a police shooting of an unarmed black man accused of stealing a laptop.
Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez told a group of residents at the New Revelation Missionary Baptist Church that two police officers shot and killed Kendrec McDade after a 911 caller wrongly claimed that he had a gun during a robbery near a taco truck.
The police car was equipped with a camera mounted on the dashboard, but it was not running during the shooting that occurred after 11 p.m. on Sunset Avenue, said Lt. Phlunté Riddle, a spokeswoman for the Pasadena Police Department.
McDade, a former Azusa High School football player, had been out for dinner that night with a friend, family members said.
His uncle and grandmother are outraged over the shooting.
"When the chief wants to say these were tactical moves ... shooting out of the police car ... Come on man.. That's a driveby," said Kevin McDade, Kendrec McDade's uncle. "I would like to see justice served. I would like the police to quit trying to cover up the real situation for political reasons."
Kendrec McDade's grandmother Henrietta McDade, demands answers.
"We're hoping what they said today that this will not happen to another," she said. "I think they could have used different tactics but that was then, this is now."
Some at the community meeting drew parallels to the Feb. 26 shooting of Trayvon Martin, who was also unarmed, by a neighborhood watch coordinator in Sanford, Fla.
Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard said he appreciated the community’s patience while several agencies conduct an investigation into the Pasadena police shooting.
“Those who came to the meeting highly critical … I believe, departed with a sense of comfort or relief that this matter is in the best possible hands and that all of the facts will come out in due course,” he said.
It was the second fatal police shooting involving Pasadena police in several years. Leroy Barnes Jr. was shot and killed during a traffic stop in 2009.
Parallel investigations were underway by the Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review and the LA County District Attorney’s Office, officials said.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, were expected to decide next week whether to charge Oscar Felipe Carrillo, the man whose false 911 claim about McDade being armed was blamed for triggering the police shooting.
Carrillo, 26, who police said is an undocumented immigrant, was being held at the Los Angeles County Jail.
Riddle said he tipped police off to McDade stealing a laptop that night as he returned to a car from a taco truck.
Carrillo called 911 and reported to police the location and type of clothing of McDade and an unidentified 17-year-old accomplice were wearing as Carrillo followed them from a car, Riddle said. The younger teen, from Pasadena, was arrested and charged with grand theft, police said. Police never found the laptop.
The shooting happened during a chase as one officer drove while the other officer ran after McDade.
When the officer in the car fired at McDade who made a sudden turn toward the officer, his hand at his waistband, Riddle said.
“The officer believed he was going to be killed and he shot Mr. McDade,” Riddle said.
The other officer, believing his partner was in a gunfight, also fired, Riddle said.
The officers, who are white, were identified as Jeffery Newlen, who’s been on the department for about five years. Before the McDade shooting, he had not fired his weapon in the line of duty, officials said.
The other officer was identified as Mathew Griffin, who’s been on the department for more than 5 ½ years. In 2007, Griffin was involved in a shooting of a rottweiller.
The officers are on paid administrative leave during the investigation.
Details about how many times McDade was struck were not available Saturday.
As is routine in police shootings, officers placed a hold on the release of information about McDade's autopsy.
Riddle said the police car's dashboard-mounted cameras are activated only when officers are going code blue - with red lights and sirens, something that in this case, did not occur.
“We try to use it very sparingly,” Riddle said.