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Slain student's attorney questions Pasadena police account

March 30, 2012 |  5:00 am

 Pasadena police officers fatally shot an unarmed college student on a dark, narrow street without illuminating him with a light, prompting the 19-year-old's family attorney to question the official account of the fatal incident.

Kendrec McDade was shot late Saturday night on Sunset Avenue after police spotted his hand near his waistband and feared that he was reaching for a gun.

One of the officers was seated in a police car that had cut off McDade as he ran north on the street. McDade was less than 10 feet away from the car 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.

Caree Harper, an attorney for McDade's mother, questioned how the officers could have seen what the former Azusa High school football standout was doing.

"How could they have seen anything out there?" she said. "He is a young black man in a tough part of town. That is why he was running."

Police acknowledged Wednesday that they were misled about the severity of the situation they were responding to. They said that a 911 caller lied to dispatchers and reported that he had been robbed at gunpoint by two men who stole his backpack and laptop. Police now say that a theft occurred, but no weapon was involved. They arrested the caller, 26-year-old Oscar Carrillo, on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter.

That arrest did little to quash questions involving the controversial shooting. Pasadena Police Phillip Sanchez has announced plans to hold a community meeting Saturday at a local church to discuss the incident and attempt to calm concerns.

But Harper said Carrillo's arrest does not minimize the officers' fatal actions.

"The officers pulled the trigger," she said. "The chief is trying to shift the blame."

Harper said police knew as early as Monday that Carrillo had lied, but did not tell the family until shortly before a news conference Wednesday.

Pasadena police have so far refused to identify the two officers who fired their weapons. They were identified only as experienced officers with only one prior shooting between them -- that of a dog. Harper, however, has identified them as Jeff Newlen and Matthew Griffin.

Records reviewed by The Times show Newlen and Griffin were involved in the shooting. Newlen called in the shooting to police communications, according to documents reviewed by The Times.

On Thursday, some civil rights leaders called for the suspension of the officers and demanded the release of a videotape that Pasadena police obtained from a security camera that allegedly shows McDade acting as a lookout as his 17-year-old friend steals Carrillo's backpack. Sanchez said neither the backpack nor laptop was ever found.


Azusa coach, friends mourn suspect killed by Pasadena police

911 caller's lie led to shooting of college student, police allege

Pasadena police shooting: Man tells 911 operator he was robbed [audio]

-- Richard Winton