By Charlene Muhammad CHARLENEM
PASADENA, Calif. (FinalCall.com) – With community support, the family of a 19-year-old Black college student killed by police officers laid their son to rest on April 7, a few days after they filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Pasadena.
The FBI has launched an investigation to determine if a violation of federal civil rights law occurred in the police shooting of Kendrec McDade.
Kenneth McDade and Anya Slaughter, the teen’s parents, also specifically named Chief Phillip Sanchez and Officers Jeffrey Newlen, Mathew Griffin, and Keith Gomez in the legal action filed on April 3. They charge the Pasadena Police Department with a pattern and practice of racial profiling and covering up excessive force, and accuse the department of trying to shield their son’s killers.
The lawsuit insists witnesses say police issued no commands or orders, such as “stop,” “halt,” “police,” or “let me see your hands,” before Kendrec was gunned down.
“Instead of doing any real investigations the policy and practice at PPD is to quash the community uproar with uninformative political style town hall meetings; divide and conquer concerned community groups by calling said meetings at or near the same time as NAACP events,” Caree Harper, the family’s attorney, charged in the document.
Many agree. “The Pasadena Police Department is in intense ‘cover up’ mode, seeking to deflect the attention on the 911 caller versus the actions of its officers,” said author and educator Dr. Anthony Asadullah Samad, in his nationally syndicated column, “Between the Lines.”
According to police accounts, Kendrec was shot multiple times after being chased by police on March 24 after Oscar Carrillo called 911 and reported that two Black males had robbed him at gunpoint. But Atty. Harper argues Kendrec was never accused of stealing the items, not even in police accounts.
She urged responsible media reporting of the incident and chided press that has dubbed the teen victim an “accomplice.” The key fact is the officers killed Kendrec McDade without articulating why, without warning and without seeing any objects on him, she said.
“Those officers made calculated decisions not to video/audiotape the incident with the patrol car cameras–this was no ‘split second decision’ … This frantic attempt to shift the blame to Mr. McDade is repulsive. Kendrec was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Atty. Harper stated in an e-mail to The Final Call.
The police officials say officers opened fire after chasing the teen. They claimed fear for their lives after seeing his hands at his waistband. However, their victim was unarmed.
The lawsuit alleges one officer fired multiple shots from his vehicle and the other from a standing position. “After being shot multiple times in the chest, witnesses said Kendrec tried to talk with officers. Officers handcuffed Kendrec and he began to ‘twitch.’ Officers left Kendrec in the street for a protracted period of time without administering first aid and he died at the hospital. One witness heard an officer yell ‘mother******’ after the shooting,’ but the officers and Chief Sanchez conspired to suppress those facts,” the lawsuit charges.
On the eve of Kendrec McDade’s burial, Atty. Harper detailed in an e-mail alert how she intended to handle any harassment of her clients by law enforcement.
“Should there be a heavy police presence in the form of MARKED patrol units; helicopters circling the area; or random detentions of young men attending either event, our office will view this as harassment, intimidation, and just plain disrespectful,” her e-mail read.
She said her office would have private investigators on hand to document with video any and all police activity that would give the appearance of harassment or unlawful profiling.
For Dr. Samad, the police and immigration aspects of the incident are troubling. The public knows everything about Mr. Carrillo and Kendrec McDade’s actions but nearly nothing of the officers’ actions, he said.
According to police, Mr. Carrillo later admitted he lied about the gun to get a rushed response from police. And just four days after the shooting, he was arrested for involuntary manslaughter.
At press time, prosecutors had decided not to proceed with any charges against Mr. Carillo as requested by the Pasadena Police Department, however, because he is an “undocumented” immigrant, he is being detained by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency and faces deportation once the police investigation wraps up.
The fact that Mr. Carrillo was arrested has prompted many to draw comparisons between law enforcement and judicial system handling of this incident and how the police and legal system is handling, or mishandling the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, a self-described neighborhood watch captain in Sanford, Fla., in late February.
“What the community is hearing is that the officer in the car hunted him (Kendrec) down like wild game and didn’t have a real reason to use deadly force … Like the Martin shooting, nobody is really upset about this except Black people–maybe a few others, but that’s it,” Dr. Samad said.
Lt. Phlunte’ Riddle, a spokesperson for the PDD denied racial profiling in the shooting death and said officers felt that Mr. McDade was armed and ready to engage.
Lt. Riddle said she personally feels that a reference to Trayvon Martin where the McDade case is concerned is absolutely devastating. Two young Black men lost their lives in a relatively short time and some of the differences in Pasadena were an actual crime was committed; the 911 call alleged a gun was used, and the responders were trained police officers. “They truly believed that he had a gun,” Lt. Riddle told The Final Call.
Meanwhile, Kendrec’s juvenile companion is still in police custody and faces commercial burglary and grand theft charges.
“The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan spoke to it very clearly in ‘Justifiable Homicide: Black Youth in Peril,’ that the same motivation during slavery, the same mindset during that period, still prevails now, which is police were set up to intimidate runaway slaves … . So there always seems to be a quick response, particularly when someone calls 911 and screams ‘It’s a Black person,’ ” said Western Regional Student Minister Tony Muhammad.
He argued that without subduing Kendrec, without questioning him, without really determining why he was running or that he was in fact armed, the officers became executioners.
“Eight times! Eight times! It only takes one bullet to kill somebody but we have to examine what would make you want to unload your weapons into a child,” Min. Muhammad said, referring to conflicting police accounts that they fired eight shots into the teen. Early reports from police to media said he was shot 10 times.
A community of mourners has rallied around the grieving family to help with his burial through the Kendrec McDade Memorial Fund. Jasmyne Cannick, a political strategist and commentator, told The Final Call a legal fund has been set up to help the family with litigation costs in their fight for justice. The Kendrec McDade Defense Fund is accepting donations at any Chase Bank, Account No. 452408953, Routing No. 322271627.
“We must unite and pull together. These shootings are going on all over the country but thank God for social media that we’re getting all of these reports now, because this is one we happen to know about. What about all of the countless others?” Min. Muhammad asked.