A robbery, a lie told to 911 about a gun, and police officers' potentially itchy trigger fingers led to Kendrec McDade's death last year. Whose fault is it he got shot multiple times despite being unarmed? According to the courts and official reports...
Kendrec McDade was killed by the police last year partly as a result of a false report to 911, but no one is getting punished for his death.
Welcome to Bad Cop Blotter, our weekly news roundup that compiles instances of cops behaving like assholes and the occasional instance of an officer actually serving and protecting the community.
Whose fault is it when cops shoot the wrong guy? That’s the question raised by the case of Oscar Carrillo of Pasadena, California, who this week pled guilty to filing a false police report that lead to the death of a 19-year-old robbery suspect back in March of 2012. Oscar was “frightened” after getting his stuff jacked, he later said, so in order to provoke a faster police response he lied and claimed in a 911 call that his assailants were waving guns in his face. The cops ended up chasing a 19-year-old named Kendrec McDade, who was black, and Kendrec—in absolutely cliched fashion—reportedly reached towards his waist as if he had a handgun. If you’ve ever heard a story of a police shooting, you can fill in the rest. One officer fired four shots from the patrol car; the other, who was on foot, fired three additional times after thinking Kendrec was the one shooting. The teenager turned out to be unarmed.
His alleged accomplice, a 17-year-old, was caught and charged with two counts of burglary. The stolen property was never recovered. A witness said that the patrol car (which hadn’t turned on its siren or dash cam) was very quiet, he didn’t hear the police identify themselves, and he thought the shots were “a drug deal gone bad.”
In December, the Los Angeles County District Attorney said that the officers were acting in self-defense and in March the shooting was ruled lawful after an internal investigation. The investigating officer in that case, Corporal Keith Gomez, was recently the subject of an NAACP complaint alleging that he manufactured evidence and intimidated witnesses in previous cases, including a murder investigation—and there are other reasons to raise an eyebrow toward the credibility of Pasadena police. But officially and legally, at least, the shooting was justified. So does that mean no one is to blame?
At the time, the shooting provoked outrage in the community and was compared to the death of Trayvon Martin. There are always depressingly similar stories of young black males killed by cops floating around, and when you hear them, it’s hard not to wonder whether cops just have itchier fingers when it comes to someone who looks like Kendrec. Or if you’re a law-and-order type, maybe you dismiss that narrative about racist cops in favor for one about a kid doing something he shouldn’t have been doing and getting on the wrong side of the law, and you figure he caused his own death.
What about Oscar, who told a lie that led fairly directly to a man’s death? He was initially taken into custody and threatened with involuntary manslaughter charges, but in the end his conviction was for making a false report. His punishment is 90 days in jail, 90 more of community service, and most bizarrely, $3,000 to be paid to Pasadena police to reimburse them for the resources they used in the investigation of the shooting. (Oscar could also be deported, as he is in the country illegally.) The death of a teenager is tragic, but the fact that the courts and the police deal with it by essentially shrugging and saying “These things happen” makes it worse.
More bad news from Copland:
- New York City Muslims got together (with help from the American Civil Liberties Union and others) to sue the NYPD for violating their constitutional rights. New York cops have been monitoring Muslims all over the Northeast in an attempt to find terrorists, but the widespread and intrusive nature of the spying program—first revealed by the Associated Press in 2011—has resulted in many Muslims feeling harassed and threatened.
- Last Sunday, a confused, autistic 11-year-old girl was found wandering near the road in Ashland, Oregon, by a man who called the police. A cop showed up and promptly used his taser on her.
- On Monday, June 17, a cop in Liberty Hill, Texas, went to the wrong house to serve a warrant and ended up shooting a dog that approached him. The dog survived, but the family that owns the house—who don’t know why the officer was even there, let alone why he decided to fire three shots at their pet—say the police should pay the vet bills.
- Another family dog was shot in El Monte, California, on Wednesday. Surveillance footage supports the family’s claim that cops ignored two “Beware of Dog” signs and entered their backyard without taking any precautions. Sadly, this dog eventually had to be euthanized. (The officers were there in the first place to follow up on a report about the family’s runaway son.)
- Las Vegas cops apparently require a SWAT team to serve an arrest warrant on a couple using their home as an illegal brothel, which was raided on Thursday.
- Similarly, the police in Norwalk, Connecticut, used a SWAT team to arrest six people for illegal gambling. Good use of resources, guys.
- The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that the police arriving at your home with an Army helicopter, and a ton of semiautomatic weapons doesn’t count as “coercion” and if you agree to have your home searched in such circumstances, it’s as legal as apple pie is American. As a result, a 78-year-old man’s conviction for growing weed will stand. :(
- Police in Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania, screamed at a woman and forced their way into her home to serve an arrest warrant for the woman’s landlord. The crime that justified such extreme behavior? The landlord had failed to cut the grass.
- A lawyer filed a lawsuit that claims Maricopa County, Arizona, deputies savagely beat and arrested him when he tried to speak to his employee who was being arrested on suspicion of a DUI.
- Let’s not forget the Good Cops of the Week: Knoxville, Tennessee, police chief David Rausch and internal affairs unit captain Kenny Miller, who defied the blue line of silence and helped bring to light a February 9 beating of a homeless man by three officers as well as the ensuing coverup by various supervisors. Three former cops accused of the beating have plead guilty. It's a relief to know that not every cop who beats the shit out of someone for no reason gets off scot-free. Have a good week, everyone!
Previously: Stop SWAT Raids