Responding to statements made by callers during public comments at Monday’s Pasadena City Council meeting claiming the city had placed a “restraining order” on documents and video footage related to a fatal officer-involved shooting, City Attorney Michelle Bagneris issued a statement on Thursday refuting those assertions.
Anthony McClain was a passenger in a car that was pulled over by police on Aug. 15, 2020 on North Raymond Avenue near La Pintoresca Park for failing to display a front license plate.
After the driver and McClain were asked to step out of the car, McClain ran from officers. Police say McClain removed a handgun from his waistband as he fled, prompting Officer Edwin Dumaguindin to open fire. McClain continued running a short distance before tossing the weapon across the street and collapsing, according to police.
Some local residents say they do not see a gun in video footage of the event. Police say a gun was found at the scene.
Investigators say McClain’s DNA was recovered from the weapon.
According to the callers on Monday night, the city has obtained a restraining order that bars L.A. County District Attorney George Gascon from viewing evidence in the case, including raw video footage of the shooting of McClain.
“The city of Pasadena is obstructing justice by withholding evidence in this case of Anthony McClain,” said Jane Ward of Showing Up for Racial Justice. “The protective order on police reports and body camera footage must be lifted so that the DA can take appropriate action in this case.”
State law allows the city to withhold documents from the public during criminal investigations. However, video of the McClain shooting was released within five days of the shooting. Some footage of the aftermath of the event in La Pintoresca Park was released earlier.
Earlier this summer, the city removed footage of officer-involved shootings from its website. However, the footage was provided to Pasadena Now within the legal timeframe via a state Public Records Act request.
“No records have been withheld from the District Attorney,” Bagneris said. “… Protective orders issued by the United States District Court pertain only to the civil litigation and not to any administrative or criminal investigation.”
“Specifically, the civil litigation orders have no impact on the records the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office can review (or cannot review) as part of their criminal investigation, to determine whether the officer-involved shooting was justified under California law.”
Bagneris said the Pasadena Police Department’s administrative review of the incident, to determine whether the officers followed department policy in the officer-involved shooting, has started and results are presently pending. The city has also retained the OIR Group to conduct an independent review of the shooting, as well as of the Police Department’s administrative review.
“The City’s contract with the OIR Group provides that they will prepare and issue a public report. We are hopeful that OIR’s report, when issued, will provide some clarity over the incident, the officers’ actions, and perhaps some considerations for the Pasadena Police Department, going forward.”
Restraining orders are typically filed in criminal and civil cases to protect the safety of people or companies involved in those cases by limiting the movements and actions of threatening parties after a judge has determined there is a threat to safety or property.
Claiming such a threat exists would not end an administrative investigation.
If city officials refused to hand over documents and footage in a criminal investigation, the city leaders responsible could be charged with obstruction of justice.
City Councilmembers did not address the comments of the callers in full on Monday due to city policy that limits responses from Councilmembers to the public during the 20-minute commenting period for matters not on the agenda.
Councilmembers can only deliberate or have substantive discussions on matters on the agenda. Since calls for the firing of the police officers involved in the shooting constitute a personnel matter, the council cannot discuss the matter and lacks the power to fire the police officers.
The inability of the council to discuss the matter or take action has left callers frustrated.
During the council’s Aug. 16 meeting, a caller aimed a racial slur at Councilmember Felicia Williams. That incident forced the council to read city policy at Monday’s meeting which prohibits members of the public from making personal, impertinent or slanderous remarks about members of the body, staff, or the public during the meeting.
According to city policy, members of the public who become threatening or personally abusive of the body, staff or council members shall be asked by the “Mayor/Chair to cease and desist such activity, and may be requested or required to leave the meeting in the event the behavior continues to disrupt the meeting proceedings.”
“It’s always been a challenge to recruit women to run for office, because there are many structural obstacles that women have to overcome in order to fight for a seat at the table,” said Katie Clark of the National Women’s Political Caucus-Pasadena Area.
“It’s a huge success story that we’ve seen more women running and winning than ever before in recent years — but with that we’ve also seen the rise of personal, vicious, sexist, and often racially motivated attacks, even death threats, aimed at women politicians and public servants, and particularly at women of color.
“While it’s important to criticize public officials and public policy, and hold them accountable, these sorts of interactions are something entirely different. It creates an environment that discourages women from running — they say, ‘it’s not worth my personal safety or the safety of my family to run.’ By allowing these kinds of attacks to occur in public spaces and justifying it as, ‘well, that’s just politics,’ we’re saying, as a society, that those kinds of comments and actions are acceptable. They are absolutely not.”