Family of Black man killed by Pasadena police files claims against city
Pasadena police release video of the shooting of Anthony McClain on Aug. 15.
Relatives of Anthony McClain, a Black man who was fatally shot by Pasadena police as he ran from officers during a traffic stop earlier this month, have filed two legal claims against the city.
A Pasadena police car dash camera captured the shooting of McClain, 32, around 8 p.m. Aug. 15. In the video, McClain is asked to step out of the passenger seat of a four-door Infiniti that was stopped because it did not have a front license plate. The driver, who was found to have a suspended license, was also asked to exit the vehicle.
McClain runs away with what appears to be something shiny around his waistband as two officers chase after him, ordering him to stop. The video shows one officer firing two shots — one of which strikes the fleeing man in his flank — as McClain sprints away.
Authorities said McClain ran for about another 100 yards before collapsing. He died hours later at a hospital.
In a description of the video, police say that the object at McClain’s waist 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.
Police said an illegally assembled semiautomatic pistol with different serial numbers was recovered nearby.
Caree Harper, the attorney for McClain’s sister and grandmother, says what police saw in the video was a large metal Michael Kors belt buckle.
In a legal claim filed Thursday, Harper said McClain was not armed and the weapon police say was recovered has not been forensically tied to him.
Harper also argued the pursuing officer fired recklessly, with one of his rounds narrowly missing a group of bystanders and striking a nearby house.
“There are at least three people in the direct line of fire as Officer [Christian] Rosa fired,” Harper wrote in a 13-page legal claim — the precursor to a lawsuit — seeking damages for wrongful death.
Harper, a former police officer, said Rosa — who was supposed to be the “cover unit” — created potential chaos by opening the passenger door and directing McClain out of the car at the same time as the driver. She said that when McClain began to walk away from the officer, Rosa grabbed the man’s left forearm. “Fearing for his life,” McClain fled, the attorney alleged.
A Pasadena city spokeswoman said Rosa was not the officer who shot McClain. The city, however, has so far refused to provide the identity of the officer.
Harper said that if the slim, 6-foot-1 McClain had had a gun, it would have been easily visible.
The claim cites one witness who said he never saw McClain make a threatening gesture, but did flinch after being shot. Another witness, who knew McClain, said the man seemed to listen to the officer’s direction to lie down and spread his arms. Once on the ground, according to court documents, McClain was asked by the officer about a gun and responded: “I didn’t have a gun.”
None of the video released by Pasadena police shows McClain tossing a gun, though police have said a witness told authorities that McClain was seen throwing the weapon as he ran.
Harper said “it is simply unbelievable” that a mortally wounded man could toss a gun across the street and it not be scratched and his fingerprints not be found on the weapon.
The fatal shooting, which is under investigation from several jurisdictions, ignited protests in Pasadena. It follows the video-recorded death of George Floyd, a Black man pinned to the ground by his neck during a Minneapolis arrest, which sparked protests and uprisings nationwide and widespread debate about use of force toward people of color, oversight and police funding.
In the wake of the shooting, the Pasadena City Council on Monday approved a plan for a police auditor and an oversight committee, a proposal with years of community discussion following other police shootings. The vice mayor has publicly called for the officer involved in McClain’s shooting to be fired.
Thursday’s claim comes on the heels of another filed in McClain’s death.
“I don’t see no reason he should deserve to be shot in the back,” Archie Barry, who identified himself as McClain’s father, said while standing outside Pasadena police headquarters. “I will have to deal with this the rest of my life.”
Barry’s attorney, Luis Carrillo, filed a separate legal claim for damages Wednesday. The lawyer says the Pasadena police fail to train officers adequately in the use of force.
“This city doesn’t teach its officers reverence for human life,” Carrillo said. “Officers should respect life. This officer did not respect Anthony McClain’s life. This officer cowardly shot Anthony McClain in the back. This city doesn’t train its officers well. He was no imminent threat.”
Pasadena Police Chief John Perez said he has not made a final determination about the shooting but that video shows McClain has a gun in his hand.
“You can see the weapon begin to turn with the body,” the chief said last week when the footage was released.
Perez said the initial information indicates the shooting meets a state law enacted last year that changed California’s standard for the use of deadly force, noting that McClain posed an “imminent threat.” The law allows officers to use deadly force to apprehend a fleeing person for felonies that threaten or result in death or serious bodily injury if the officer reasonably believes the person will hurt or kill others unless immediately apprehended.
Start your day right
Sign up for Essential California for news, features and recommendations from the L.A. Times and beyond in your inbox six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.