The investigation into a controversial police killing of a college student last weekend took a dramatic twist Wednesday when Pasadena authorities arrested a 911 caller, alleging his fabrication led to the shooting.
An officer shot 19-year-old Kendrec McDade on a narrow street in the city’s Northwest district about 11 p.m. Saturday.
Police were dispatched to the scene after a man, identified as Oscar Carrillo, called 911. He said two armed men had stolen his laptop computer and backpack as he was buying tacos at a stand on Orange Grove Boulevard.
But on Wednesday, officials said that Carrillo, 26, lied to police about the existence of a gun and that detectives now believe neither McDade nor the other person were armed.
Carrillo was arrested on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter.
“Mr. Carrillo emphatically indicated a gun was involved ... that is very important. It sets the platform for the mind-set of the responding officers,” Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez said at a news conference Wednesday.
On a 911 tape released by police, Carrillo is heard saying first that one of the suspects had a gun and later that both were armed. Here is an excerpt:
“Two guys ... just put a gun in my face,” the caller said.
“It was two guys.... Oh my God.”
The dispatcher asked for details about the attackers and in which direction they fled.
“Did they have any weapons?” the dispatcher asked.
“Yeah, they have a gun,” the caller responded.
“Do you remember anything about the gun?” the dispatcher asked.
“Both have a gun, man,” the man said. “They run away from me.”
Sanchez said that after more interviews, Carrillo admitted to detectives that he lied about the gun.
But Sanchez said a security camera video shows that the two young men were involved in the theft of a backpack from Carrillo’s car. Sanchez alleged that McDade was a lookout in the theft.
The officer who fired was sitting on the driver’s side of his cruiser. He shot McDade after the teenager allegedly made a motion toward his waistband, Pasadena police Lt. Phlunte Riddle said. The officer used the cruiser to block McDade’s path, she said. “It was close range less than 10 feet,” she said. A second officer, who was chasing McDade on foot, also opened fire, “fearing for [the] other officer’s safety,” Riddle said.
McDade, a football standout at Azusa High School who attended Citrus College, died of his injuries at Huntington Memorial Hospital. Police spent the next two days looking for a gun or the stolen laptop computer, but said they found neither.
The case has generated concern on the part of the American Civil Liberties Union as well as the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People.
Seeking to appease those and other community concerns, Pasadena police asked the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Office of Independent Review to investigate the shooting.
Police officials have declined so far to release the officers’ names. The department has also put a security hold on McDade’s autopsy report.
“There is a great number of questions unanswered here…. The bottom line is this young man was not armed when he was shot dead. The underlying question is they said he is an armed robbery suspect, but they never recovered a gun,” said Earl Ofari Hutchinson, of Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, before the chief’s news conference. “He is not a gangbanger or a drug dealer.”
The shooting occurred in a neighborhood where tensions between African American residents and police have surfaced. McDade was African American. Police did not reveal the race of the officers.
Those who knew McDade said they cannot believe what happened.
“He was a good kid who was never in trouble, never got suspended from school or anything like that,” said Joe Scherf, head football coach at Azusa High. “His mother was always behind him, making sure he was doing the right thing. I remember she pulled him out of practice when he got a really bad grade.”
Sanchez began his news conference Wednesday by saying that the shooting was a “tragedy for the McDade family, the City of Pasadena and police officers.”