In never before revealed statements, Officers Jeffrey Newlen and Mathew Griffin described a chaotic chase and confrontation that occurred in the moments just before they fatally shot unarmed 19-year-old Kendrec McDade, according to court documents exclusively obtained by this news organization.
The March 24, 2012 shooting of the unarmed black teen drew national attention to Pasadena in the wake of the Trayvon Martin slaying in Florida. It has been frequently cited by civil rights activists as an example of a type of police misconduct toward young black men that resulted in the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the subsequent riots there this past summer.
Newlen and Griffin made the statements about the night of the shooting in depositions for a civil rights and wrongful death case filed by McDade’s parents shortly after the slaying. The city ultimately agreed to a $1 million settlement with both parents.
Pasadena NAACP President Gary Moody said he was “devastated” by what he read in the depositions.
“It evokes anger … it just brought some really nasty feelings reading that,” Moody said. “Just the whole situation involving what they could have done to save this boy’s life, as opposed to shooting him.”
City Manager Michael Beck defended the officers’ actions.
“We need to remember that the officers were told that both suspects had guns and Mr. McDade’s actions may not have provided Officer Griffin time to deliver a verbal warning immediately prior to firing his weapon. It is my understanding that Officer Newlen provided a verbal warning to Mr. McDade,” Beck said. “The District Attorney’s Office conducted a comprehensive review and determined the officers used reasonable force under the circumstances.”
Police Chief Phillip Sanchez, Mayor Bill Bogaard and Councilwoman Jacque Robinson, chairwoman of the Public Safety Committee, could not be reached for comment. Councilman Victor Gordo declined to comment before reviewing the documents and consulting with the city attorney.
In the depositions, taken in July 2013, the officers said they chased McDade in a police car, without lights and sirens, following a report of an armed robbery. At one point, Newlen exited the patrol car and began to chase McDade on foot through the dark streets in northwest Pasadena. Griffin remained in the car, and fired the first shot when he said McDade began running into the street toward him.
Newlen said he fired from the sidewalk after he saw a “muzzle flash” near the rear of the police car.
“I saw him run directly at the drivers side door of the police car. I heard a shot. I heard two shots specifically. At one point I saw a muzzle flash, I believed that my partner had just been killed and he was turning and firing at me,” Newlen said, adding that he saw McDade turning toward him in a “crouched position.”
Both officers said they did not see McDade’s hands during the altercation and never saw a weapon.
The officers also indicate a Pasadena police patrol car was wrecked when it struck a wall during the brief pursuit of McDade. Newlen said he told McDade to stop as he chased him on foot, but Griffin said he did not give any commands before firing at McDade.
An attorney asks, “Did you ever say to him, ‘Put your hands up’ before you shot him?”
Griffin’s answer was, “No.”
Later on Griffin was asked, “Did you give him any warning at all you were going to shoot?”
Griffin again answered “No.”
Griffin admits his patrol car, left in reverse, injured him and nearly ran over McDade in the seconds after the fatal shots were fired.
Both officers said the incident was the first time they had been involved in a shooting. The officers were legally cleared in the shooting by the District Attorney’s Office and an internal policy review. Both have returned to patrol duty.
An independent review of the shooting by the Office of Independent Review Group was released to the city last month. The report examines the night of the shooting and gives recommendations for improvements in department policy based on the officers’ actions and the department’s handling of the incident as a whole.
Last week, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant granted the Pasadena Police Officers’ Association a temporary restraining order prohibiting the city from releasing the report. PPOA attorney Richard Shinee said the document contains confidential personnel information and releasing it would violate the officers’ rights. The officers deposition testimony contains many details of the incident that were likely incorporated into the OIRG report.
The city has said it plans to release a redacted version of the report to the public. McDade’s mother Anya Slaughter, the Pasadena NAACP, local ACLU board member Kris Ockershauser, ACT, the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Greater Pasadena and the Los Angeles Times have filed oppositions to the restraining order.
Attorneys for the NAACP and Slaughter could not be reached for comment.
*Originally published on Pasadena Star News.