Kendrec McDade: How an unarmed 19-year-old died in a hail of police bullets

'I want answers,' says McDade's mother, Anya Slaughter.

  • A photo of Kendrec McDade, a 19-year-old who was shot and killed by Pasadena police officers March 24. "I just want to make sure justice is served for my son," says his mother, Anya Slaughter.
A photo of Kendrec McDade, a 19-year-old who was shot and killed by Pasadena… (Cheryl A. Guerrero / Staff…)
March 31, 2012|By Adolfo Flores, adolfo.flores@latimes.com

Seven days after giving birth to her second son, Anya Slaughter returned to Huntington Memorial Hospital before dawn on a Sunday morning. This time, she was there to claim the body of her oldest son, 19-year-old Kendrec McDade.

McDade had been killed hours earlier by Pasadena police officers investigating what they believed to be an armed robbery. McDade was involved in the robbery, police say. But it has become clear that he was unarmed.

“I had just delivered my second son when we lost our first son,” Slaughter said Wednesday. “I have not gotten any sleep since Sunday. This has devastated me and I want answers.”

So far, the answers have been surprising and unsatisfying.

‘Both have a gun, man’

At about 11 p.m. Saturday, March 24, Pasadena resident Oscar Carrillo, 26, called 911 and said armed men had taken a laptop computer and backpack from his car as he was at a taco truck on Orange Grove Boulevard in Northwest Pasadena.

McDade served as a lookout while a 17-year-old accomplice rummaged through Carrillo's car, Pasadena police said later.

Carrillo let them leave his car, but pursued them afterward. He called 911 on his cell phone and said one suspect had a chrome gun.

“Which one had a gun?” the dispatcher asked, according to a tape released later by police.

“One of them, one of them, they just pointed it at me right now,” Carrillo said.

“Do you remember anything about the gun?” the dispatcher asked a few seconds later.

“Both have a gun, man,” Carrillo said. “They run away from me.”

Pasadena police officers Jeff Newell and Mathew Griffin caught up with McDade as he ran north on Sunset Avenue. One officer was on foot and the other in his patrol car.

They didn't illuminate McDade with a flashlight or lamp before firing, and his hand didn't move from his waistband during the time they watched him, Pasadena Police Lt. Phlunte Riddle said, though earlier in the week the officers reportedly said McDade's hand was moving toward his waistband when they fired.

The officer seated in the cruiser shot first, Riddle said. The other officer, believing his partner was in a gunfight, also fired. Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez said later he believes as many as eight shots were fired at McDade. A coroner's report is being withheld from the public because the police investigation is ongoing.

Despite two searches of the area, police found neither a laptop nor a weapon. They did find another robbery suspect, a 17-year-old who remains in custody, charged with burglary, grand theft and failing to register as a gang member.

From victim to suspect

On Monday, according to police, Carrillo admitted he lied about seeing the weapons in order to hasten police response.

“During the secondary interview, he confessed he had fabricated the gun portion of it,” Riddle said. “He was still a victim of the two suspects because it's clearly shown on video that the items were stolen. But the fabrication regarding the gun influenced the mindset of the officers when they approached McDade.”

On Wednesday, Carrillo was arrested for involuntary manslaughter. Prosecutors have yet to decide whether to charge him.

On Friday — with pressure from the media building, civil rights activists and an attorney for McDade's family comparing the case to the shooting by a security officer days earlier of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida — police released the names and backgrounds of the officers.

Newell is white, a five-year veteran of the force and has no record of shooting a gun during an incident, Riddle said. Griffin is white, was hired in August 2006 and once shot a dog that attacked a person.

Sanchez said one of the officers served in the military in Iraq.

Both are now on paid administrative leave.

Sanchez said the officer’s decision to shoot while seated in the patrol car will be evaluated as part of the investigation.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Officer Involved Shooting team is conducting a probe, which is routine when officers shoot at suspects. On Tuesday, Sanchez asked the civilian Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review to investigate, as well.

Caree Harper, a lawyer for McDade's family and the 17-year-old suspect, said she wanted to know in detail what prompted the officers to fire.

“It shouldn't be open season on young black men getting killed who are unarmed,” she said Wednesday. “The caller, the officers and those folks need to be examined a little closer instead of the young men getting shot.”

‘He was my world’

McDade would have turned 20 on May 5. In addition to being a stand-out football player for the Azusa High School Aztecs, he also ran track. He attended Citrus College and aspired to study law, according to friends.

His cousin, Michael Cooper, 20, of Pasadena, described McDade as charismatic and with a ready smile.

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