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Investigation into Kendrec McDade shooting made public after protracted legal battle

In this undated family photo, Kendrec McDade, then a high school student, is seen wearing his Aztecs Football team uniform. McDade was shot by police after being chased and allegedly reaching into his waistband, according to police.
McDade Family File Photo/AP
In this undated family photo, Kendrec McDade, then a high school student, is seen wearing his Aztecs Football team uniform. McDade was shot by police after being chased and allegedly reaching into his waistband, according to police.

A Los Angeles County superior court judge Tuesday ordered the city of Pasadena to release to the public an investigation into the March 24, 2012 police shooting of Kendrec McDade. 

The report, written by the Office of Independent Review, a private consulting group, delves into the 2012 shooting as well as the city's own internal investigation of the incident. 

The release puts an end to a protracted legal debate over which parts of the report on the controversial shooting should be made public. 

Typically, police departments in California refuse to release details of internal investigations involving employees and information on officer discipline, citing privacy laws.

In this case, attorneys for McDade's family argued that the city was unnecessarily withholding too much of the report. They won that argument, and a more lightly redacted version of the report was finally made public Tuesday. 

McDade, 19, was was shot to death by two Pasadena police officers on March 24, 2012 after a 911 caller falsely reported two men waved a gun in his face and stole his backpack.  

Officers Matthew Griffin and Jeffrey Newlen responded to the call, saw McDade in the street, and took off after him when he started running, according to the official account. Officers told investigators McDade repeatedly grabbed his waistband as he ran. The officers tried to box him in — one officer on foot and the other in the car. When he turned towards the patrol car, Griffin, the driver, believing McDade was armed, opened fire. Newlen, hearing shots, assumed they were coming from McDade and also opened fire.

McDade took seven bullets in total — three in the back and four in the front — and was pronounced dead at Huntington Hospital. 

He did not have a gun and family have maintained he was not involved in a crime that night. 

The 911 caller, Oscar Carrillo, later admitted he lied when he told police he'd seen armed men in the hopes of provoking a faster police response.

A recent KPCC investigation found McDade was one of 97 unarmed people shot by law enforcement  in Los Angeles County between January 1, 2010-December 31, 2014. In that period, Pasadena police shot three people, two of them armed. 

McDade's shooting, which came in the wake of the death of Trayvon Martin and at the cusp of growing public skepticism of police shootings, spurred public outcry in Pasadena.

Griffin and Newlen, however, were cleared of criminal wrongdoing by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. An internal investigation by the Pasadena Police Department found their actions complied with departmental policy.  

The city later paid a $1 million settlement to McDade's family, who sued claiming wrongful death. 

Below are the 10 tactical decisions that OIR found questionable and contributed to the officers’ decisions to fire their weapons, followed by the full report: 

  • not successfully broadcasting their observations of McDade being armed when they were following him in the police vehicle
  • not communicating with each other regarding their apprehension plan
  • continuing to pursue the suspect aggressively, including traversing an admittedly unsafe narrow throughway
  • the driving officer deciding to take his gun out, thus making difficult driving maneuvers with one hand
  • failing to reevaluate the safeness of their actions after colliding the patrol car with a building wall
  • failing to broadcast the traffic collision
  • splitting partners without effective communication resulting in unclear understandings about their next moves
  • the passenger officer deciding to chase an armed suspect on foot with the intent to apprehend rather than the preferred and safer goal of containment
  • the driving officer deciding to engage in a "cut off" and "box in" maneuver, which required driving past an armed suspect
  • the driving officer position and stopping the patrol car too close to a running suspect he believed was armed

You can read the released report below.

Report: Investigation in shooting of Kendric McDade

This story has been updated.