I knew Kendrec McDade. Kendrec lived two doors down from our home in Azusa. He came by when his little sister came to play with our kids. I can tell you honestly that he was a very nice boy. He was quiet and respectful and a bit of a hero around the neighborhood; he was the kid the other kids aspired to be. He wanted to go to law school. He was the son of a loving mother; the apple of his mother’s eye. I feel compelled to write because of the shabby way this young man is being treated in the press, and because we need to remember a few things about his death that are being largely ignored.
The idea has been floating around that somehow the killing of Trayvon Martin is more tragic than the death of Kendrec McDade. 1 That the differing circumstances in regard to these two boys somehow makes the death of one more significant than the other. Let me speak to that by saying that Kendrec being killed by police officers rather than by the hand of a private citizen does not make his life less valuable nor his death less tragic. If anything, the official nature of the state action involved gives us good reason to take the death of Kendrec McDade very seriously. More importantly, both seem to be completely innocent of any offense in relation to their deaths and that makes their circumstances very similar indeed.
Second, this is a young man that was not found guilty of any crime, and it is highly doubtful that he was involved in criminal activity of any kind. The man that reported the crime has been arrested for involuntary manslaughter in relation to the false information he gave to the the police, and that should have much more bearing on the disposition of public opinion. The only information that we have identifying Kendrec as a “lookout” in regard to a theft is from the 911 caller that made wildly inaccurate claims to the police about an armed robbery that did not take place. He said to the dispatcher that “two black men”, “shoved guns in my face!””.
“Which one had a gun?” the dispatcher asked, according to a tape released later by police.
“One of them, one of them, they just pointed it at me right now,” Carrillo said.
“Do you remember anything about the gun?” the dispatcher asked a few seconds later.
“Both have a gun, man,” Carrillo said. “They run away from me.” (source)
We know that nothing like that ever happened.
Thirdly, mention is being made of a “robbery” in regard to young Kendrec; to be clear on this, we now know that no robbery of any kind took place and the reporters covering the event should be diligent to report this with accuracy. A robbery involves the use of force or the threat of force and that was not the case. “Robbery” sounds worse than stealing because it is worse than stealing, and so failing to make proper distinctions can cloud the issues and cast aspersions upon a young man that could not have been charged with that crime.
I’ve read some reports that refer to the event as a “burglary” but the crime of burglary involves the breaking and entering of a dwelling with the intent to commit a felony, and so has nothing to do with the facts of Kendrec’s case. There is in California a lesser known offense called “commercial burglary” that might have applied to a theft out of a car, had the car been locked in an attempt to secure property, but this was not the case according to the reports by investigators and so would not apply. Apparently the 17-year-old that the police investigators say was actually involved did take a “back pack” from the open car window, and on this basis have charged the child with “grand theft” but as grand theft requires that the property taken have a value of at least $950.00, the charge is most likely inflated. At worst, there was the petty theft of the some property from an open car window, by a minor, but we have no evidence linking Kendrec to that crime.
There have been rumors of a video tape that shows a 17-year-old (not Kendrec) reaching into the open car of the 911 caller and taking a back pack out. So far we have not seen that evidence, but as far as we know it does not provide any evidence that Kendrec was a participant. Being at the wrong place at the wrong time does not make one criminally liable. We already know that he did not take property, that he was not an assailant, that he did not threaten anyone, that he had no weapon, that he was not found in the company of the minor accused of the crime, and we have no credible evidence that he was involved in any criminal activity. We don’t even know at this point if he was actually present when the crime occurred.
What we know is that when the police came at him with guns drawn, he ran. I would not have run. I am old and slow. But when I was his age fear and adrenaline might have gotten the better of me. To get into all of the reasons that Kendrec McDade might have run would be pure speculation, but here are a few things that are not: He had never been accused or convicted of any crime, he had never been arrested, he had no familiarity with the police or police tactics in a situation like this, he was an ideal student, a standout athlete in high school, a college student with his whole life ahead of him, he was known by reputation and personal experience to be a kid that did not regularly get into trouble or hang out with people that did, and we know that when people point guns at you, no less the police than anyone else, it is scary.
This is not to say that we don’t understand why, having received a report from a dispatcher about a confrontation with two armed men, the officers would reasonably respond with heightened sensitivity to possible dangers. We understand that they were misinformed about the threat level. We should also understand that it is not uncommon for 911 callers to lie, or exaggerate claims to provoke a certain kind of response from law enforcement and that professional law enforcement officers take these kinds of things into account everyday. Even though we understand, it is still the duty of the officers responding to the call to professionally and systematically investigate and weigh the truth or falsity of the claims.
The failure of the officers to turn on their on board camera so that there would be a record of the event, something that they are trained to do, is something that requires due explanation.
The prosecution of the caller in the Kendrec McDade killing is complicated by the absence of a precedent. While it’s obvious that in some way the caller’s actions were part of the cause of the shooting, according to the letter of the law it’s hard to say how. Can a 911 caller be held criminally liable for the consequences that arise from police action in dependence upon inaccurate information, given with intent to mislead? I don’t know the answer to that, but neither will the District Attorney. The police want to charge the caller with involuntary manslaughter but the DA knows those charges would probably fail. To make them stick the court would need to open new ground in criminal law and decide a matter previously undecided, something the courts seldom do. Right now the caller is being held on an immigration violation and not for the crime in question. Even if the caller escapes criminal liability, everyone will understand that there was moral liability.
From whatever perspective one chooses to approach this, Kendrec comes out a young man that bore the unfortunate consequences of the actions of others. This was a tragic event by anyone’s account and tragic events tend to bring out the worst in us, but sometimes against all odds, they bring out the best. Let this be one of those times.
A memorial fund has been started at Chase Bank in the name of Kendrec McDade to help pay for the young student’s burial.
Kendrec McDade Memorial Fund
Kenneth McDade and Anya Slaughter
Account No. 452408953
Routing No. 322271627
How to Donate
- Go to any Chase Bank and donate to the Kendrec McDade Memorial Fund
(Account # 452408953)
- Go to your own bank and ask to transfer an amount to the Kendrec McDade Memorial Fund
(Account # 452408953) at Chase Bank using the routing #322271627