Forensics expert pokes hole in Pasadena Police Officer's Account of McDade shooting

From [HERE] A world renowned forensic pathologist said facts presented by the autopsy of a Black man shot to death by Pasadena police officers contradicts the official account of his slaying.

Dr. Cyril Wecht reviewed a report on the death of Kendrec McDade generated by a medical examiner with the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner. Wecht said there were multiple inconsistencies between the autopsy and an account of the shooting given by Pasadena police officers.

Among the contradictions is a statement by Police Department officials that McDade was at close range as he approached a patrol car and appeared to reach for a weapon in his waist band. "There was no soot from the burning powder, or stippling, that produced superficial burns on the skin," Wecht said. "The rule of thumb for handguns, if they are less than 24 inches there needs to be some stippling."

McDade, a former Azusa High School football standout, was shot and killed by officers Mathew Griffin and Jeffrey Newlen on March 24. The Pasadena-branch of the NAACP President has criticized the Police Department's tactics and the tepid reaction by city leaders to the tragedy.

A noted expert witness who has consulted on and testified in cases ranging from the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. to the Manson Family killings and the slaying of JonBenet Ramsey, Wecht also questioned Pasadena's claim that McDade became combative after being shot and it was necessary to handcuff the fatally wounded teenager.

"I find it difficult to find someone who has been shot seven times - with gunshot wounds to major arteries - can be considered combative," Wecht said. 

After being shot by police he was handcuffed. Given the injuries sustained by McDade, Wecht found his treatment by the Pasadena police officers at the scene lacking in "sensitivity and common sense."

McDade family Attorney Caree Harper has consistently called into question the use of handcuffs on the Citrus College student as he lay dying in the street.

"Not only am I concerned about the handcuffing of my client, but handcuffing him was outrageous," Harper said.

In the past, Harper has claimed her client was shot in the back, and points to the schematics in the autopsy report that show three entry wounds to the rear of McDade's arms and one to the hip.

While the autopsy report offers some telling evidence into the actions taken by the police officers on the night of the McDade shooting, Wecht said it is impossible to determine from the report alone whether McDade was shot in his back. Such a conclusion could only be reached through a re-enactment of the incident.

And despite the downward trajectory of all but two of the seven shots which struck McDade, Wecht said the report doesn't establish whether McDade was falling at the time of the shooting or was shot while surrendering to the cops in a kneeling position.

"You can't make conclusive indications from the trajectory of the bullets whether or not the bullets are being fired as he is falling or while on the ground," Wecht said.

McDade and a 17-year-old companion were fleeing from the scene of a crime when confronted by the police. The 17-year-old was stopped behind a neighborhood business, while McDade was shot on poorly lit Sunset Avenue in Northwest Pasadena.

Officers Newlen and Griffin responded to false reports of an armed robbery made by Oscar Carrillo. The undocumented immigrant told the dispatcher he was robbed by McDade and the 17-year-old at gunpoint.

Pasadena Police Department officials claim to be in possession of photographic evidence of McDade acting as "a lookout" for the 17-year-old at the time of the burglary.

However, the Police Department has denied requests made by this newspaper and the Pasadena-branch NAACP to release the photographs.

The fabrication by Carrillo set in the minds of the cops that McDade was armed and likely contributed to the use of deadly force by the police officers, Pasadena police Chief Phillip Sanchez told the media in the days following the shooting.

Sanchez's claim that Carrillo's lie led to the shooting has been disputed by Harper and Carrillo's lawyer Andres Bustamante.

In fact, Carrillo's car was burglarized by the 17-year-old, who later pleaded guilty to commercial burglary.

The McDade shooting has drawn attention from national civil rights figures the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson. The shooting has also reopened the historic wounds left by years of strained relationship between the Pasadena Police Department and the city's black and Latino communities.

Pasadena-branch NAACP President Joe Brown, El Centro De Accion Social Director Randy Ertll and local civil rights activist Martin Gordon have criticized the Police Department's tactics and the tepid reaction by city leaders to the tragedy.

Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard hesitated to answer direct questions about the autopsy report or the discrepancies between the document and the reports given by the Police Department.

"Maybe I shouldn't be the lead on this - not being an expert in this," Bogaard said.

Four separate investigations into the shooting are underway. Sanchez called for a probe by The Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review Group less than 48 hours after the shooting. The call for an investigation by Sanchez follows a protocol set after cops gunned down resident Leroy Barnes in 2009.

The FBI, the Pasadena Police Department Internal Affairs Bureau and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Officer Involved Shooting team are also conducting independent probes of McDade's shooting.

The McDade family has filed, and on several occasions amended, a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Pasadena, Sanchez, Newlen, Griffin, Pasadena police Lt. Phlunte Riddle and Pasadena police Detective Keith Gomez.

Gomez is also under investigation by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. According to a signed complaint, Gomez threatened to kill a suspect during an interview.

Gomez's former partner, officer Kevin Okamoto, is on paid leave stemming from a Sheriff's Department probe into his failure to turn over exculpatory evidence in a criminal case.

Depositions in the federal civil rights lawsuit filed by the McDade family are set to begin late this month with depositions of Los Angeles County Department of Coroner's officials and a deposition of Carrillo, Harper said.