New Report Criticizes Police Investigation of Unarmed Teen’s Death

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While attempting to suppress an independent consultant’s report on the 2012 fatal shooting of an unarmed teenager by Pasadena police officers, attorneys for the police union sued the city to prevent the report from becoming public. Although a heavily redacted version was eventually released, an appellate court in California ruled the redactions went too far and ordered officials to release a new copy this month that clearly criticizes the police investigation into the teen’s death.

At 11:04 p.m. on March 24, 2012, Oscar Carrillo called 911 to report two men with a gun had stolen his backpack with his laptop in it. Although he initially reported seeing one gun, Carrillo later told the dispatcher that both men were armed. While searching for the suspects, officers Matthew Griffin and Jeffrey Newlen observed 19-year-old Kendrec McDade walking down the road and decided to confront the teen because he matched the suspects’ description.

Instead of activating their dash-cam video, the officers began pursuing McDade and accused him of reaching for his waistband before they opened fired. A subsequent search of the area and McDade’s body found no weapons. A cellphone was discovered in the front pocket of McDade’s sweatpants.

Transported to Huntington Memorial Hospital, McDade received treatment for multiple gunshot wounds but died under surgery. He was pronounced deceased on March 25, 2012, at 12:08 a.m. According to the medical examiner, McDade suffered three fatal wounds to his torso and five non-fatal wounds to his extremities. His blood also tested positive for alcohol and marijuana.

After the questionable shooting, the city hired the Office of Independent Review Group to analyze the officers’ actions and the department’s investigation of the incident. Although the police union fought to keep the report sealed, an appellate court rescinded the sealing order earlier this year after the report was accidentally made publicly available for over a week. Last month, the city released a heavily redacted copy of the report, but a judge ordered them to remove most of the redactions this month because the censorship went well beyond protecting the officers’ privacy rights.

According to the new version of the report, the OIR Group strongly criticized the Pasadena Police Department’s lack of transparency and accountability in handling the shooting investigation. The report found that the department did not even bother asking whether the officers issued a verbal warning before killing McDade nor questioned the officers for failing to activate their dash-cam video. The department also did not bother to investigate whether witnesses corroborated or refuted the officers’ claims that McDade had been reaching toward his waistline in the moments before his death.

Instead of immediately interviewing the officers after the fatal shooting, the department waited 36 hours before questioning them and even allowed them to watch video recordings of the aftermath before conducting the interviews. Although the report found that the officers made several tactical mistakes, an internal affairs investigation was never conducted and both officers have been cleared of any wrongdoing.

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