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Officers who killed Kendrec McDade made tactical errors

Kendrec McDade
Screenshot via YouTube
Kendrec McDade

Two Pasadena police officers who shot and killed an unarmed teenager three years ago were not disciplined for the shooting and made tactical errors during the incident, according to a court document.

The mother of 19-year old Kendrec McDade, killed by Pasadena police, addressed the Pasadena City Council on Monday, during public comment at its regular meeting.

“Both of them should have been punished,” said Anya Slaughter, McDade's mother, during an interview with KPCC.

An independent report that evaluated the police shooting has been hung up in court since September, but parts of it were revealed in a court filing earlier this month.

According to excerpts of the report quoted in a March 16 court filing, the officers “repeatedly made tactical decisions that were not congruent with principles of officer safety.”

Officers Matthew Griffin and Jeffery Newlen shot and killed the teenager on March 24, 2012, while responding to an armed robbery call. It later turned out that the 911 caller who reported the robbery had lied about the suspect being armed.

The Pasadena Police Department hired a consultant – the Office of Independent Review (OIR) Group – to examine the incident and offer recommendations.

Responding to public pressure, Pasadena city officials announced they would publicly release a redacted version of the report.

In response, the Pasadena Police Officers’ Association, which represents rank-and-file officers, sued the city, arguing the report was part of officer employment records and was therefore confidential. The police union lost that argument in court in November and appealed the decision.

A report hidden within a court filing

Within the appellate court filing, attorneys for the police union mistakenly revealed portions of the report. The following are some excerpts:

  • "The statements of Officer Griffin raise the question that if there was so much concern about the vulnerable position the officers were placed in by traveling through the alley way, then why did he decide to do so?" (pg. 36)
  • "Officer Griffin's decision to upholster his weapon and steer with one hand as they proceed through the narrow passage may have contributed to the cause of the collision." (pg. 36)
  • "Officer Newlen did not take the time to explain his intentions to his partner at the time he exited the police car." (pg. 38)
  • "PPD policy expresses a preference that officers stay together during foot pursuits of suspects … Officer Newlen took affirmative steps to separate himself from his partner and go into foot pursuit. Officer Newlen compounded this decision by not communicating his intent to his partner." (pg. 39)
  • Neither Officer Griffin nor Officer Newlen had broadcast that they were following a person they believed to be one of the robbery suspects nor their belief that the person was armed. Per the Department's foot pursuit policy, it would have been preferable for Officer Newlen to confirm in a broadcast to fellow officers that he was in pursuit of a suspect he believed to be armed.” (pg. 40)
  • "Officer Griffin's 'cut off' and 'boxing in' maneuver is troubling." (pg. 43)
  • "In reviewing numerous deadly force scenarios, OIR Group has been taught by use of force experts that it is critical to maintain distance and cover when dealing with suspects believed to be armed … in this case, both Officer Griffin and officer Newlen attempted in different ways to close the distance on a suspect they perceived as armed without being in a position of cover..." (pg. 44)
  • "Officer's Griffin's 'failure to place his vehicle in park before exiting his vehicle after the shooting' was a 'potentially disastrous mistake.'" (pg. 47-48)
  • "OIR Group also reviewed Officer Griffin and Newlens' decision not to respond Code 3 to the felony call. As detailed above, this decision has significant implications because, in Pasadena Police vehicles, activating lights and siren automatically activates the in-car video camera." (pg. 50)
  • "...yet they repeatedly made tactical decision that were not congruent with principles of officer safety." (pg. 66)

An appeals court judge sealed this court filing April 25 at the request of the police union, but the mother of McDade and Pasadena civil rights activists are fighting to have the filing unsealed.
“I want this tragic incident not to happen to someone else again,” Slaughter said. “I want Kendrec to be the breaker of this misconduct that is going on in the Pasadena Police Department.” 

The attorney representing the Pasadena police union did not respond to a request for comment.

A spokesperson for the Pasadena Police Department said the two officers were not disciplined because they did not violate policy.

A follow-up hearing on the report is scheduled for April 21.