D.A. won’t charge Inglewood officers in controversial shooting of couple in car

David Michael, father of Kisha Michael, from left, his daughter Trisha Michael, and Kisha's son Mikel Nicholson
David Michael, father of Kisha Michael, from left, his daughter Trisha Michael and Kisha’s son Mikel Nicholson join other family and community members on Feb. 21, 2017, near the site in Inglewood where Kisha Michael and Marquintan Sandlin were shot and killed a year earlier.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office will not file charges in the controversial shooting deaths of an Inglewood couple who were gunned down by police inside their car in 2016, according to a report made public Wednesday.

Prosecutors said they had insufficient evidence to charge the five Inglewood police officers who opened fire on Kisha Michael and Marquintan Sandlin in February 2016.

The office’s legal conclusion laid out in the 36-page document is largely centered on the determination that prosecutors could not disprove that the officers had a reasonable fear that either Michael or Sandlin would reach for the loaded gun that officers saw inside the car.

In a separate report also made public late Wednesday, prosecutors said they would not charge the Pasadena police officer who shot and killed Anthony McClain as he fled from a traffic stop two years ago. The Aug. 15, 2020, shooting spurred protests by Black Lives Matter in the streets of Old Pasadena and gained the attention of nationally renowned civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump.


The decisions could engender political backlash against George Gascón, the embattled Los Angeles County district attorney, who is facing the threat of a recall and who was elected on a promise of holding police accountable in cases where they used deadly force in unnecessary situations.

Activists in San Francisco had long warned that Gascón, who did not charge a single officer in a shooting case in eight years as a top prosecutor in the Bay Area, would fail to do so in Los Angeles as well. Gascón also promised to reopen a number of cases in which police used fatal force that his predecessor, Jackie Lacey, declined to prosecute. But that plan has also hit a number of roadblocks.

“We know this is excruciating and that the families are understandably devastated. We also understand that the public has questions, but out of respect for the families, we wanted to meet with them first and give them time to process this difficult information,” Gascón said in a statement. “We do want to be clear: the burden of proof for prosecution is high. Our decision does not mean that what happened is right.”

The killings of Michael and Sandlin led to sharp criticism of the Inglewood Police Department, which took more than a year to release information about how the incident unfolded or provide an explanation of what prompted officers to shoot. The five officers — Michael Jaen, Richard Parcella, Jason Cantrell, Sean Reidy and Andrew Cohen — have since been fired.

In a racial discrimination lawsuit they later filed, the officers alleged they were fired because they were white.

According to the district attorney’s report, officers found Michael and Sandlin unconscious inside of a car stopped in the intersection of Manchester Boulevard and Inglewood Avenue shortly after 3 a.m. on Feb. 21, 2016. Michael, who sat in the passenger seat, had a gun on her lap, authorities said.

Officers spent the next 40 minutes trying to wake the couple up by “using spotlights, illuminated light bars, sirens, an air horn and by nudging the car’s back bumper with a police vehicle parked to its rear,” according to the district attorney’s office report.

An LAPD helicopter was also brought to the scene, and an armored BearCat vehicle was parked behind the car to prevent it from escaping, authorities said. But none of the attempts to wake the couple were successful.

Officers also discussed attempting to reach into the vehicle and seize the weapon, but they were concerned that breaking the windows or using a beanbag shotgun might “instigate a shooting,” according to the document.

Eventually, Sandlin stirred and drove his car forward, bumping an Inglewood police cruiser and the BearCat vehicle. Parcella believed he saw Sandlin reaching for the weapon and opened fire with a shotgun. Sandlin was ultimately shot five times and died at the scene.

Moments later, Michael attempted to get out of the car and officers believed she was reaching toward the gun, according to the memo. She was shot 13 times and died at the scene, records show.

Sandlin’s and Michael’s blood alcohol contents were over the legal limit to drive. Michael also had methamphetamine in her system at the time of the shooting, records show.

The investigation into the shooting took years, with prosecutors twice attempting crime scene re-creations. In 2021, after Gascón was elected, the case “was reviewed again at the highest levels” of the district attorney’s office, according to the report.

But ultimately, prosecutors decided that the placement of the gun inside the car presented a significant “tactical challenge” to the responding officers and that no witness statements or physical evidence could disprove that the officers had a reasonable fear for their lives when they opened fire, the document said.

Michael was the mother of three children. Sandlin had four daughters.

Inglewood police officials have offered few details about the shooting. The department has not yet responded to a request from The Times to view the officers’ disciplinary records. A police spokesman could not immediately be reached Wednesday.

In the Pasadena case, McClain was a passenger in a car that police stopped on a Saturday evening for having no front license plate. When Officer Edwin Dumaguindin asked McClain to step out of the car, he ran while holding his hands on his midsection, police videos show.

Pasadena Police Chief John Perez alleged that McClain had a handgun in his waistband and that Dumaguindin fired when McClain looked back toward the officer. A gun was recovered across the street from McClain, and forensic testing showed his DNA on it, Perez said.

In the document released Wednesday, prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence to charge Dumaguindin, because he had reason to believe McClain might turn and shoot him.

Crump, the civil rights attorney, drew a comparison between the case and the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, because officers also knelt on a wounded McClain. Crump said the officers’ actions after the shooting caused McClain to bleed more heavily and contributed to his death.

McClain had been shot twice and died a few hours later at a hospital.

Crump said a video showing McClain bleeding on the sidewalk “underscores the fact that there seems to be a propensity for police in America to shoot Black men in the back — disproportionately to anything we’ve seen them do to our white brothers and sisters.”

In November, the city of Pasadena agreed to pay $7.5 million to McClain’s three young children to settle a wrongful death lawsuit.

Caree Harper, an attorney for the McClain family in the civil case, said Wednesday that prosecutors failed to gather evidence from her team and should have considered lesser charges than murder in their analysis.

“This was a whole unsatisfactory response,” she said.