The two officers who fatally shot an unarmed African American college student in Pasadena last weekend are veteran members of the force with no previous record of shooting anyone, authorities said.
Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez confirmed that Officers Jeffrey Newlen and Mathew Griffin shot Kendrec McDade, 19, on a dark, narrow street last weekend. Sanchez said the only notable incident in their records was Griffin’s shooting of a Rottweiler in 2007.
The incident, involving two white officers, has sparked tensions in a community with a long history of divisive relations between the Police Department and African American community.
McDade, 19, was fatally shot shortly after 11 p.m. on March 24 by two officers after they said they saw his hand near his waistband. The officers shot him because they mistakenly believed he had a gun after a theft victim called 911 and lied to dispatchers.
The caller, Oscar Carrillo, told police he had been robbed of his backpack and laptop by two armed men. Police arrested him on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter Wednesday, saying that he deliberately misled authorities in a lie that contributed to the fatal shooting.
Sanchez released the names in a statement under mounting pressure Friday as he prepared for a public forum Saturday at a northwest Pasadena church to try to calm concerns.
Newlen joined the department in 2007 and Griffin joined in 2006.
Their names and backgrounds were made public after The Times and Pasadena Star-News identified them based on police records.
Carree Harper, an attorney for the McDade family, has questioned the police account of the events.
One of the officers was seated in a police car that cut off McDade as he ran north on the street. McDade was less than 10 feet away when the officer in the car shot at him. McDade was also being chased by a second officer, who also opened fire because he feared for his colleague’s safety, Lt. Phlunte Riddle said. Riddle said the officer in the car did not have a light on McDade at the time of the shooting.
Harper said it would be difficult to see McDade on the dark street without a light.
“How could they have seen anything out there?” she said, adding that McDade was running out of fear, not guilt. “He is a young black man in a tough part of town. That is why he was running.”
She said McDade, an Azusa High football standout and Citrus College student, was never a threat to the officers.
Although police have acknowledged that they were misled about the severity of the threat, Harper said that Carrillo’s lie does not minimize the officers’ fatal actions.
“The officers pulled the trigger,” she said. “The chief is trying to shift the blame.”