Mother of teen killed by Pasadena police presses for release of report
The mother of an unarmed teenager fatally shot by Pasadena police is waging a legal battle to force the city to release the results of an independent consultant’s investigation into the 2012 killing of her son.
The report, written by the Office of Independent Review, examines the shooting of 19-year-old Kendrec McDade and comes amid renewed calls for police transparency and oversight in the city.
“I know they’re trying to hide something,” said Anya Slaughter, McDade’s mother.
On Tuesday, an attorney for Slaughter and several other groups successfully asked a Los Angeles County judge to withdraw an order preventing the report’s release. A temporary restraining order was issued last week at the request of the Pasadena Police Officers’ Assn., which argued the report includes personnel information about the officers that state law requires be kept confidential.
Slaughter, who settled a lawsuit with the city for $850,000 this year over the shooting, noted that the Office of Independent Review provided the city with a draft of its report a year ago. Several civil rights groups, including the Pasadena chapter of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, ACT and the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, joined Slaughter’s legal attempt to secure the report’s release.
“The community deserves to finally find out what happened to my son … and why,” Slaughter told The Times.
McDade, an African American, was shot by Officers Jeffrey Newlen and Matthew Griffin, who are white, as he ran on Sunset Avenue. The district attorney’s office found the two officers reasonably believed McDade was armed with a gun based on false information from a 911 caller, who reported that his laptop had been stolen. The crime turned out to be a simple theft by another young man who was with McDade. Officers believed both men were armed based on the false report. One officer said he saw McDade’s hand at his waistband during the pursuit, according to a district attorney’s report.
An FBI spokeswoman said agents have closed their civil rights investigation into the shooting.
City officials said they were not trying to keep the Office of Independent Review’s report secret. Though City Council members have yet to see the report, several said they hope to make as much of it public as they are allowed under the law.
“By releasing the report, it would help the community understand what the facts were at the time,” said City Councilman John Kennedy. “What some, including myself, are hoping for is healing so there won’t be any impression that the city or Police Department is hiding anything.”
The city attorney, city manager, police chief and the officers involved in the shooting have read the report, city spokesman William Boyer said. City Manager Michael J. Beck released a statement saying the city “remains committed to an open government but must also balance that goal with the privacy rights of our police officers.”
Police union attorney Richard A. Shinee said Tuesday’s ruling requires the city to decide within 10 days whether to make the report public.
“If the city decides to release the report, we will seek another [temporary restraining order] immediately,” Shinee said.
In court papers, Shinee said the report “details the acts of the officers, draws conclusions about their conduct ... [and] makes appraisals about their performance.” That information, Shinee argued, is considered confidential under California law protecting peace officer personnel records.
Shinee wrote that he went to court after the city notified him it had received requests seeking the release of the report. In a letter to Shinee, City Atty. Michele Beal Bagneris told him: “If you desire to prevent the release of the report by the city ... you need to take appropriate court action.”
Dale Gronemeier, an attorney for Slaughter and the public interest groups that challenged the order, accused the city of trying “to get the association to do their dirty work here.”
Shinee and a city spokesman denied the accusation.
While many of details surrounding the shootings have been made public, Slaughter said she hopes the report takes a close look at the department’s tactics and training, which she believed were inadequate and led to her son’s death.
In 2009, the city hired the Office of Independent Review to examine the controversial police shooting of Leroy Barnes Jr. The consulting group found those officers put themselves in a tactically questionable and precarious situation that might have heightened their fear. The consultants recommended more than a dozen reforms, including improvements to how the department investigates police shootings and tracks officers who are in multiple incidents.
The city adopted nearly all of the recommendations.
The report by the Office of Independent’s Review on the shooting of Barnes was made public, as have the consulting group’s reports for other law enforcement agencies, such as Fullerton police and the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.
In the wake of McDade’s death, some civil rights advocates have called for more reforms, including an independent auditor.
City officials acknowledge that the shooting remains a source of strife.
“There are still broken hearts, hurt feelings and skepticism about the Police Department, though I don’t think that’s an across-the-board feeling,” City Councilwoman Jacque Robinson said. “The McDade shooting is a significant blemish on that relationship.... We are working to repair that.”
Some residents say the city has a long way to go. Two weeks ago, 21-year-old college student Ife Sangode-Olaitan led a march of more than 100 people to Pasadena City Hall protesting police killings. Marchers held signs, including one that bore McDade’s name and the year of his death.
“This has been happening in Ferguson and New York and it’s happening here,” said Sangode-Olaitan. “It’s not going away, and I hope there’s some justice.”
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