Kendrec McDade's Death Should Be Part of Our Trayvon Martin Conversation:
It looks like things went down like this in Pasadena, California, in late March: A 9-1-1 call was made by Oscar Carrillo, who claimed that two "African-American" men were robbing his car, one of them flashing a gun at him, and that he was pursuing them in his car. The alleged robbers were running away. The police arrived in a patrol car and started pursuing someone they believed was a suspect, one in the car and one on foot. According to the cops, that young black man, 19 year-old Kendrec McDade, put his hand "in or around his waistband." Thinking McDade was going for the gun Carrillo had mentioned, they said, the two officers opened fire, one of them from the patrol car first, hitting McDade multiple times. As many as eight shots were fired at McDade.
According to a federal lawsuit filed by McDade's parents, as their son lay bleeding on the ground, the police handcuffed him and left him there as he began to twitch and try to speak to the officers who had shot him. They left him there "for a protracted period of time without administering first aid." McDade died at a hospital later. His companion, a 17 year-old, was arrested on suspicion of murder because, according to California law, "if anyone dies during the commission of certain felonies, the felon gets an extra charge of murder," even if the charged person did absolutely no harm, even if the cops did the killing.
Let us leave out the fact that Kendrec McDade was a star high school athlete who was a college student. Let us leave out the fact that Carillo was an undocumented immigrant who had been deported before and came back and now faces deportation again. Let us leave out whether or not McDade and his companion actually did rob Carillo. These things don't matter.
What matters is that the police never found a gun. They searched for days. With bloodhounds, with helicopters. Nothing. Because, see, Carrillo lied about the gun. He wanted the police to get there quicker. He was arrested on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter, not murder, like McDade's companion, and released 6 days later with no charges filed. And, besides that, the cops aren't saying they saw a gun or anything that looked like a gun when they fired at McDade. They saw a hand move.
What also matters is that, according to the police, the officers never activated their patrol car camera. It is supposed to go on automatically if the lights or siren are used. But Pasadena police policy is that patrol officers don't use those for armed robberies. However, it can be started manually. Thus, no tape exists of the incident. It is merely the word of the officers. The McDades' lawsuit alleges a cover-up by the police department and that one of the officers who shot Kendrec was also involved in other shootings of black suspects.
What also matters is that the Pasadena and, indeed, police all over the Los Angeles area have been involved in multiple incidents of shooting unarmed black males in the last couple of years. What matters is that, like the Sean Bell incident in New York City, which finally ended this week, over 5 years later, with the firing of the detectives involved, the use of deadly force by the police against black men is something this nation refuses to grapple with.
There's been local marches for justice for Kendrec McDade, but nothing like the saturation of action and coverage we've gotten in the Trayvon Martin case. And that's a shame, for many reasons, not the least of which is that the violence against young black males by the police, and not just armed neighborhood watch members, from stop-and-frisk to killing, deserves at least as much of our outrage and anger.