The Los Angeles County district attorney's office has concluded that Pasadena police officers responding to a robbery report acted lawfully when they shot to death a suspect who turned out to be unarmed.
Pasadena police officers Matthew Griffin and Jeffrey Newlen shot 19-year-old Kendrec McDade during a nighttime encounter on March 24 after a man reported being robbed by two men at gunpoint. The 9-1-1 caller later admitted to investigators that he’d lied about the suspects having a gun.
A letter Monday from the district attorney's Justice System Integrity Division to Pasadena Police Chief Phillip L. Sanchez says an investigation concluded the officers acted “in lawful self-defense and in defense of others.
“The actions of McDade during the pursuit in conjunction with the information known to the officers at the time of the shooting reasonably created a fear of imminent death or serious bodily injury,” assistant D.A. Deborah Delport wrote. “Once the officers perceived the McDade posed an apparent lethal threat, their response with deadly force was justified.”
The letter discloses more details about what happened during the pursuit. It says that at some point, McDade nearly fell to the ground but kept his right hand on his waistband. Then after officer Matthew Griffin cut him off in a patrol vehicle, McDade turned and headed directly at Griffin, stopping two-and-a-half to three feet in front of him.
“This – this scares the crap out of me,” Griffin told the district attorney investigators, as written in the letter.
“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 said.
Griffin fired four shots at McDade from inside the patrol car, then took cover by leaning over. Officer Newlen fired his weapon four or five times after hearing the shots and, believing McDade was shooting at him, the DA’s letter says.
Pasadena police chief Phillip Sanchez released this written response to the letter:
“The shooting of Kendrec McDade is tragic for everyone involved. These incidents bear a significant emotional impact on the community and the police department. 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 Group (ORIG), the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Administrative Review by the Pasadena Police Department.”
In a continuing assessment, the Office of Independent Review is examining the way the department conducted its own internal review and investigation of the McDade shooting.
Meanwhile, a civil lawsuit filed by McDade’s family is pending. The family’s attorney, Caree Harper, described the DA’s decision as “disappointing.”
“This is quite simply another example of the devaluation of a young life in Northwest Pasadena,” she said in an email. Harper questioned the officers’ decision to handcuff McDade, who’d been shot multiple times, as they waited for paramedics to arrive.
She said the McDade family was disappointed that the district attorney’s office earlier this year declined to file criminal charges against 911 caller Oscar Carrillo.
This story has been updated.