Noted civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who helped win a tentative $27 million settlement in the Minneapolis Police death of George Floyd, has joined the team of attorneys suing the city and the police department for the shooting death of Pasadena resident Anthony McClain last summer.
Crump and attorneys Carree Harper, Dale Galipo, and Michael Carrillo held a press conference at Pasadena Police headquarters Monday to announce a new legal filing which is the precursor for the pre-trial discovery set to begin on March 25.
Tuesday would have been McClain’s 33rd birthday.
Opening the press conference, Crump detailed a litany of cases in which police officers nationwide have killed Black citizens.
“What’s important to note here today,” said Crump, “is that in Pasadena, California, in 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic shut down everything in America… except implicit bias and police excessive force and brutality against Black people in America.”
“We saw it with Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, and in America, all said her name,” said Crump. “We saw George Floyd tortured for eight minutes and forty-six seconds and everybody saw that video all over the world. And they all said George Floyd’s name, and then a week after Anthony McClain was shot and killed, Jason Blake., Jr. in Kenosha, Wisconsin, was shot and paralyzed, and we all said his name.”
“We’re here in Pasadena saying that in America,” Crump continued, “we should all be saying Anthony McClain’s name.”
McClain was shot twice on Raymond Avenue in Northwest Pasadena on Saturday, August 15 while fleeing police during a traffic stop for a missing front license plate.
His death re-ignited ongoing Black Lives Matter demonstrations which roiled Pasadena all last summer.
Attorney Harper, a former police officer, said Monday that a recently discovered video cast doubt on the recovery of the gun police say McClain had been concealing at the time of the stop but discarded as he fled.
Harper claims that the gun was found “under very suspicious circumstances” by an officer who arrived after the shooting.
The video shows McClain lying face down and handcuffed on a grassy easement, bleeding onto the grass, as a police officer appears to be applying pressure to a wound on McClain’s lower back.
The video was filmed on the parkway of the eastern side of North Raymond Avenue.
An angry and hostile crowd of residents gathers, shouting and cursing at the police, while others can be heard crying and shrieking.
During the four minute-and 19-second video, officers tell the crowd that an ambulance is on its way. McClain is heard saying, “I can’t breathe,” while on the ground. At the end of the video, an officer is heard saying, “It’s here!” referring to the ambulance.
The video does not appear to show the presence or discovery of a weapon.
Pasadena Police Dept. spokesperson Lt. William Grisafe said Monday the gun was found on the opposite side of the street from where the video was shot, and about 20 to 30 yards away from where McClain fell.
Grisafe said the McClain case has been submitted to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office for a review of the officers; conduct “a few months ago.”
“We have not received a response as it averages about 12 to 18 months to receive their disposition,” he said.
Later Monday, the Police Department issued a statement about the press conference in which it said that “the incident that took place last year that resulted in the tragic death of Anthony McClain continues to be reviewed by multiple agencies, including the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office’s review of the shooting, as well as the OIR Group, which has been retained by the City to conduct an independent review of the incident.”
“The recent loss of Mr. McClain’s beloved grandmother has only added to the family’s pain and our thoughts are with them,” the statement said.
The Department declined to comment specifically on charges leveled at police by attorney Crump, saying, “As there is ongoing litigation regarding the matter, we are unable to comment publicly on the claims made earlier today by attorney Ben Crump, although the fact is that a handgun was found, and Mr. McClain’s DNA was found on the handgun.”
Harper said that the McClain team is “questioning the evidence. I think with that video, we are going to question the Pasadena Police document that was filed today.”
Both sides reportedly filed Federal 26-1 documents Monday morning, in which each provided initial statements before the formal discovery phase.
Harper said that her office will allege that the police officer improperly applied pressure to the wound and that Police Chief John Perez “improperly trained his officers.”
As a former police officer, Harper seemed torn over taking legal action against police officers.
“I’ll be honest,” said Harper. “I don’t think that anyone ever joins a police department because they want to shoot and kill black people”
Harper was also hesitant to directly criticize Police Chief John Perez, who she said she thought “has a good heart.” But, she added, “Evil prevails when good men fail to act.”
Added Harper, “In Pasadena, when officers do wrong, they don’t seem to be held accountable. It seems like they are actually promoted.”
Also at the press conference were McClain’s son, Anthony, his daughter SkyLynn, and his son Bryce, along with their mothers. Following the press conference, the group, led by Solemuli Afaese, mother of Anthony Jr., sang “Happy Birthday” to McClain.