Lawsuit alleges wrongful death in police shooting

Published April 5, 2012 1:18AM (EDT)

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — The parents of a college student who was shot and killed by Pasadena police alleged in a federal lawsuit that their son's death was part of a pattern of abuse by the department and that the investigation "reeks" of a cover up.

Kenneth McDade and Anya Slaughter alleged in the wrongful death and civil rights lawsuit filed Tuesday that the department tried to cover up its wrongdoing in the shooting death of their 19-year-old son Kendrec McDade on March 24.

Police blamed McDade's fatal shooting on a man's 911 call claiming he had been robbed at gunpoint by two men. Police said the phone call by Oscar Carrillo led officers to believe McDade was armed when they spotted him in an alley and opened fire after he allegedly made a motion at his waistband. McDade did not have a weapon. Carrillo later admitted to police that he lied about the gun.

The federal lawsuit alleges McDade's death was part of a pattern of abuse and killings of black people in Pasadena at the hands of police, including the shooting death of Leroy Barnes Jr. who was shot 11 times in 2009 by the department's officers.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of McDade's parents by attorney Caree Harper, said Officer Jeffrey Newlen shot McDade several times after pursuing the teen on foot, while Officer Mathew Griffin fired several shots from his police cruiser. The suit said McDade was never ordered to stop and police reports do not mention the teen defying police orders.

Officers have said they fired when McDade reached for his waistband.

After being shot multiple times in the chest, witnesses said McDade tried to talk to the officers, according to the lawsuit. Officers handcuffed McDade and he began to "twitch," the suit said. The teen died at a hospital.

Grief still evident in her red eyes and tired stare, Slaughter told The Associated Press that Pasadena police took "her baby."

Slaughter gave birth to her third child at Huntington Memorial Hospital. A week later she returned to the same hospital because her first-born, Kendrec, died there.

"I want the world to know that he's not what the Pasadena police has portrayed him to be. He was one of those kids who stayed in school," she said. "I don't believe he did anything wrong. I think he was at the wrong place at the wrong time."

Kendrec's father, Kenneth McDade, said Slaughter calls her son's cellphone just to hear his voice, and put a pair of shorts he wore just before he died underneath her pillow.

"The hardest thing was to call Kendrec's mother and tell her that we lost our son," he said as tears rolled down his cheeks. "He doesn't get to watch his little brother grow up. The only thing that was kind of a blessing is that he did get a chance to see his little brother, to hold him and enjoy him for one week."

He's furious at the officers who shot his son, and at the police officials who he believes are trying to smear his son and cover up their failure by arresting Carrillo.

"How can I put my trust in a system that doesn't ever work for us?" he said.

He's also angry at Carrillo, because McDade believes that without the erroneous information that Carrillo gave 911 dispatchers, his son wouldn't have been killed. But at the same time, he pointed out that the two officers decided to pull the triggers, not Carrillo.

The lawsuit names Pasadena police Chief Phillip Sanchez, Griffin, Newlen and detective Keith Gomez as defendants. It seeks unspecified damages.

The city attorney hasn't seen the lawsuit and couldn't comment, Pasadena city spokesman Tim McGillivray said Tuesday.

By Salon Staff

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