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Portantino Introduces Bill Influenced by Recent Pasadena Police Shooting

Bill would allow state Department of Justice to investigate deadly police shootings if possession of weapon by decedent is disputed

Published on Saturday, February 20, 2021 | 5:53 am
At left, Anthony McClain was shot and killed by Pasadena police in August 2020. At right, Senator Anthony Portantino.

Citing a recent police shooting in Pasadena as its impetus, area representative State Sen. Anthony Portantino introduced a bill Friday that would authorize the state Department of Justice to investigate deadly police shootings if there is a “reasonable dispute” over whether the person killed was armed.

SB 715, co-authored by  State Rep. Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, expands on a previous piece of legislation by McCarty known as AB 1506, according to a statement issued by Portantino’s office.

“Existing law, AB 1506, authorizes the state prosecutor to investigate only an officer involved shooting of an unarmed civilian,” the statement said.

“In a recent incident where a Pasadena Police Department officer fatally shot a civilian, it was unclear whether the individual was armed and therefore not eligible for DOJ investigation,” the statement continued. “Under SB 715, a disputed circumstance, like the one in Pasadena, would be eligible for the same review included in AB 1506.”

The bill would also authorize the state prosecutor to investigate and gather facts in an incident involving a shooting by a peace officer that results in the death of a civilian if there is a reasonable dispute as to whether that civilian was armed

The senator’s office did not cite what specific incident in Pasadena was being referenced.

In the Pasadena Police Department’s most recent police shooting, an officer shot and killed Anthony McClain, 32, of Pasadena on Aug. 15 near La Pintoresca Park.

He had been riding as a passenger in a car that was pulled over for failing to display a front license plate, officials said.

According to police, McClain ran from officers while pulling a handgun from his waistband, prompting an officer to open fire. A pistol was recovered from the street, where police said McClain threw it after he was shot. Analysis determined McClain’s DNA was on the weapon.

Family members of McClain and attorneys representing them have disrupted whether McClain was armed and whether the weapon collected by police belonged to him.

A second aspect of SB 715 would mandate that the state DOJ check to ensure the validity of hunting licenses presented by people presenting them while purchasing firearms. It was inspired by the 2019 mass shooting at a synagogue in Poway, in which the shooter was able to purchase a rifle, despite being under 21 and not having a valid hunting license, as required by existing law, according to Portantino’s office.

“The validity of the license at the time of purchase was not verified,” the statement said. “Under current law, when transferring or purchasing a firearm with a hunting license, there is no verification during the 10-day background check to ensure the validity of the license. This measure would require the Department of Justice, for sales of firearms to persons under 21 years of age who are eligible to purchase a firearm based upon their possession of a hunting license, to confirm the validity of the hunting license as part of the background check. This bill additionally defines what constitutes a valid and unexpired hunting license.”

Portantino said the bill was a response to the “gun violence epidemic in our country.”

“California leads the country in combating gun violence, but there is more we can do. I am pleased to continue to author legislation on firearm reform, which improves public safety for all Californians,” he said. “I am hopeful that with sensible measures, we can prevent tragic incidents of violence and further independent investigations when warranted.”


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