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Pasadena Vice Mayor Calls for Firing of Officer Who Shot Anthony McClain

Published on Wednesday, August 26, 2020 | 4:59 am
Pasadena Vice Mayor Tyron Hampton. Screenshot via Pasadena Media

Pasadena Vice Mayor on Monday called for the firing of a police officer who fatally shot Anthony McClain during an encounter that stemmed from a traffic stop earlier this month.

The comments came during a discussion about forming a police oversight commission and creating an independent police auditor, which was ultimately approved by the City Council.

Vice Mayor Tyron Hampton asked for information about the shooting, the investigation and police policies and procedures before calling for the officer who shot McClain on Aug. 15 to be terminated.

“That young man could be me. That young man could be my nephew. That young man could be my next door neighbor,” Hampton said.

“Unless we start holding people accountable then this will continue to happen. And oversight, without people wanting to hold people accountable, is nothing. Do not throw your hands up and do not see another African American man or a person of color slain, and shot in the back, and be OK with it. Make this man fight for his job back. Fire this officer.”

McClain was a passenger in a car that was pulled over for lack of a front license plate, authorities said.

Video released of the deadly encounter shows McClain running from an officer while reaching toward his waistband. He is seen running with an object in his left hand, which police say was a gun. After being shot, police said McClain threw the gun across the street and collapsed. Photos of a handgun police say had been wielded by McClain were released, along with the video.

McClain’s family attorney has questioned whether he had a gun, saying officers may have mistaken a belt buckle for a firearm. Hampton also raised the question.

“There is no guarantee that he had a gun,” Hampton said. “There is a gun that was found, but without DNA evidence, we don’t know really if that was his gun.”

DNA tests on the recovered pistol were pending, but could take up to a month to complete, according to Police Chief John Perez.

Hampton asked whether the officer who shot McClain was on leave pending the investigation. Councilmember John Kennedy reiterated the question.

City Manager Steve Mermell and City Attorney Michele Bagneris responded that it would be inappropriate and legally questionable to release the officer’s status at the meeting.

In the past, the status of police officers involved in shootings has  been made available to the public, including their identities. 

Hampton said the involved officer, who has not been identified, violated policy by turning off his body-worn camera, shooting a suspect in the back, as well as “public endangerment.”  and endangering the public. “One of the shots that he fired, because I guess he didn’t have the greatest of aim, actually went into someone’s home.”

Hampton also questioned why the officer chased after McClain, since he was not the driver of the car that was originally pulled over. If police planned to impound the vehicle because the driver did not have a valid license, state law would allow officers to do an inventory search. In order to conduct that search, officers could ask the driver and passenger to step out of the vehicle.
Further, In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that if a person in a high-crime neighborhood runs in “unprovoked flight” from a police officer, then reasonable suspicion has been met, and officers can pursue that person.

However, that ruling does not give the officers the right to shoot at a suspect for fleeing. 

AB392 does give police officers the right to use deadly force to apprehend a fleeing suspect to prevent that person from causing further death or serious bodily injury unless immediately apprehended. 

Multiple investigations into the shooting incident have not yet been completed. 

California has some of the nation’s toughest police disciplinary rules, which make it harder to fire police officers.

In June, Black police chiefs representing several departments in California called for changing state law so they can immediately fire officers for egregious behavior, with due-process appeals only after the fact.

“This man was shot in the back because his friend did not have a front license plate, and he was a passenger in the car. He was not the suspect,” Hampton said.

He also took issue with the city including information about McClain’s criminal history along with the footage of the incident, saying it was irrelevant

Councilmember Victor Gordo said it was important to consider the issue from all perspectives.

“Public safety and policing is probably the most sensitive responsibility in every community, and it needs to be handled seriously… and fairly to the community, fairly to the hard-working men and women who patrol our city every day working to keep us safe,” he said. “But there has to be accountability. There has to be independent accountability.”

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