Year in Review: McDade tragedy, a mission on Mars, 710 stirs debate

The gunshots that took Kendrec McDade’s life on March 24 have echoed throughout the year in Pasadena.

The Azusa teen was running down Sunset Avenue after allegedly serving as a lookout in a Northwest Pasadena car burglary when he neared two police officers who believed — based on bad information from a 911 call — that they were searching for a man with a gun.

McDade was not armed, though officers say his hand hovered near his waistband as he approached a patrol car. He was shot eight times.

The tragedy occurred shortly after unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in Florida, and it added to cries of racial injustice and outrage. Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson commented on the McDade case in an April appearance in Los Angeles, residents marched in his honor and Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez met with clergy and the public to answer questions.

One difference between the Florida and Pasadena incidents was the role of a third party in McDade’s death. Oscar Carrillo, who saw his car being burglarized on Orange Grove Boulevard, later admitted he lied about seeing a weapon when he called 911.

In December, Los Angeles County prosecutors determined that officers Jeff Newlen and Matthew Griffin had relied on Carrillo's disinformation, and decided not to charge them with a crime.

Two other inquiries into McDade’s death are ongoing, as is a lawsuit against Pasadena police brought by McDade’s parents. None are likely to heal the wounds of Anya Slaughter, McDade’s mother.

“He was my world,” she said shortly after the shooting.

From Pasadena to Mars

The region’s connection to the heavens made for a sensational story in 2012, as Jet Propulsion Laboratory safely landed the NASA rover Curiosity on the Red Planet.

“Touchdown confirmed. We're safe on Mars,” JPL engineer Al Chen announced to hollers and high-fives at JPL's Mission Control Center at 10:32 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 5.

The craft spent more than eight months in space and traveled 354 million miles to reach its destination near the foot of Mars' Mount Sharp, named for the late Caltech geologist Robert Phillip Sharp. Estimated expenses are $2.5 billion.

The rover has since taken its first photos and soil samples in what is expected to be at least a two-year study that may prove Mars once held water — and possibly life as we know it.

Curiosity also left a trail of good publicity back on Earth , which may have been a factor in NASA announcements to announce more Mars missions. Three more craft are slated to reach the Red Planet or its orbit in the next decade. The MAVEN orbiter will launch in 2013.

Ready for some football?

The Rose Bowl will bask in the glow of the 99th Rose Bowl Game on Tuesday, but the stadium is also a center of controversy.

Several times in 2012 leaders of the Rose Bowl Operating Co. upped the estimated costs for ongoing renovation work. The price tag is now expected to total $195 million, $43 million more than first thought.

City officials say bringing an NFL team to the stadium for a few years could help with finances. On the assumption that Los Angeles business investors are successful in luring a team to the area, Pasadena officials want the Rose Bowl to serve as a temporary home. The City Council voted in November to allow more large events at the stadium to clear the way for negotiations with the NFL.

Rose Bowl neighbors vow to fight the plan, recalling a citywide vote against having a resident NFL team in 2006. They say the noise, traffic and impact on the Arroyo Seco would be too much to bear.

Occupy Colorado Boulevard

The Rose Parade had an unscripted finishing act in 2012, as hundreds of Occupy demonstrators danced down Colorado Boulevard immediately after the last official float.

Seeking reforms to the nation's financial and campaign funding systems, Occupy activists were behind several smaller events in Pasadena and San Marino in 2011 and 2012, but made their biggest splash by carrying a giant octopus, representing Wall Street’s many-tentacled influence on politics and the economy, as they followed the parade.

Concerns that the demonstrators would interrupt the big show or clash with police were not realized.

Scandal strikes PCC

Scandal struck Pasadena City College in June when investigators with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office raided the homes and offices of two officials with the power to oversee PCC contracts with outside vendors. Neither Richard van Pelt, the former top finance official at the college nor Al Hutchings, his deputy, have been charged.

The two ran an outside consulting business called Sustainagistics LLC without the school’s knowledge, and as the criminal probe continues they are tangled in civil litigation with a lighting company officials who allege the pair tried to shake them down in a botched bribery attempt. Van Pelt and Hutchings have denied the claims.

710 plan stirs debate

The freeway that doesn't exist sparked growing outrage in 2012. Regional transportation planners studying whether to complete the long-planned extension of the Long Beach (710) Freeway from Alhambra to Pasadena already face implacable opposition from cities including South Pasadena, and unwavering support from cities including San Marino. Then in August, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority planners awoke a sleeping giant when they briefly proposed making Avenue 64 through Pasadena a freeway alternative. Hundreds of Pasadenans came to subsequent meetings to shout down the plan. The Avenue 64 idea was withdrawn, but a proposal for a 4.5-mile tunnel under the original route lives on. The study is expected to wrap up in 2014.