Police shooting death of Black man prompts protests in Pasadena
Following the police shooting of a Black man in Pasadena on Saturday night, protesters are demanding that city leaders hold law enforcement accountable for the man’s death, but authorities say the law — and police body-camera video — justify the shooting.
Standing atop an SUV outside Mayor Terry Tornek’s home on Wednesday night, Jasmine Richards, who heads the local Black Lives Matter chapter, led a group of protesters questioning the shooting death of Anthony McClain.
The 32-year-old was shot and killed during a traffic stop over the weekend. Police have said the man pulled a handgun while running from officers.
“They think killing Black people is a joke,” Richards said.
Police Chief John Perez said that multiple investigations will be conducted, but noted that video from one of the officer’s body cameras shows McClain had a gun in his hand. A semiautomatic pistol was recovered at the scene of the shooting near La Pintoresca Park.
On Thursday, authorities released several videos as well as a photograph of the gun that was recovered.
The Pasadena Police Department released footage of an officer-involved shooting that occurred Aug. 15, when Anthony McClain was killed during a traffic stop.
The fatal encounter began about 8 p.m. Saturday when two officers spotted a four-door Infinity that did not have a front license plate and pulled the vehicle over in the 1300 block of North Raymond Avenue. Police determined the driver had a suspended license, Perez said, and officers ordered McClain and the driver to step out of the vehicle.
Video shows that McClain, however, fled on foot with what appears to be something shiny around his waistband. In a description of the video, police said that it was a handgun and that in a slow-motion version, the object can be seen in his left hand as he runs away before turning his head back toward the pursuing officers.
“You can see the weapon begin to turn with the body,” Perez said.
But Caree Harper, the McClain family’s attorney, said what police saw on the video was a large metal belt buckle.
“We believe the area that police say it was a weapon was, in fact, his Michael Kors belt,” Harper said.
An officer who ran after McClain fired two shots, striking him once near his rib cage, police said.
McClain continued running for about 50 yards before tossing his weapon and collapsing about 20 yards later, Perez said. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he died from his injuries.
Police said an illegally assembled gun with different serial numbers was recovered nearby. A witness told authorities McClain was seen tossing the weapon as he ran. But the Police Department did not say Thursday whether they could forensically connect McClain to the weapon.
The officers involved in the shooting have less than five years on the force, authorities said, and one of their body cameras did not work during the fatal encounter.
The department has pledged to identify the officers but has expressed concerns about their safety. The law requires the names of law enforcement officials involved in fatal shootings be released but allows departments to withhold identities when a specific threat exists.
Perez said the shooting meets a state law enacted last year that changed California’s standard for the use of deadly force from “reasonable” to “necessary,” noting that McClain posed an “imminent threat.” The law allows officers to use deadly force to apprehend a fleeing person for any felony that threatens or results in death or serious bodily injury, and if the officer reasonably believes the person will cause death or serious bodily injury to another unless immediately apprehended.
In the aftermath of Saturday’s shooting, a crowd gathered at La Pintoresca Park, breaking through police tape surrounding the scene. One man shouted and cursed at officers as protesters gathered nearby.
The outburst caused one officer to fire his stun gun into the man’s chest, dropping him to the ground, body cam video shows.
Police then discharged pepper spray at the angry, surging crowd, striking a 10-year-old, whose mother, in turn, pepper-sprayed an officer who tried to check on the child.
In the days since the shooting, protesters have gathered outside Tornek’s house as well as the home of Pasadena Councilman Victor Gordo to demand the release of body-cam video and security camera footage from the scene. They also want the officers charged in McClain’s death.
The City Council next week will consider implementing a police oversight commission into the shooting, Tornek said. But critics are calling for an independent police audit, citing previous questionable shooting deaths of Black men in Pasadena, including the 2012 killing of 19-year-old Kendrec McDade.
McDade was shot seven times after a 911 caller falsely reported that the Azusa High School graduate was carrying a gun when he and a friend stole a laptop. The caller eventually pleaded guilty to falsely reporting a criminal offense, and the district attorney’s office cleared Officers Jeff Newlen and Matthew Griffin of wrongdoing in the shooting.
A later independent report found that Pasadena police failed during their investigation to determine whether witnesses could corroborate or refute the officers’ claims that McDade had been clutching at his waistband as he fled from their squad car before being shot.
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