Video Shows Pasadena Officer Shoot Anthony McClain In The Back. Police Claim He Had A Gun

A protestor at an Aug. 17 car caravan and protest in Pasadena. (Brian Feinzimer for LAist)

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Body-worn and dashboard video released by the Pasadena Police Thursday show an officer shoot 32-year-old Anthony McClain in the back as he runs away from a traffic stop. McClain died later in the hospital.

According to Pasadena police, the officer who shot McClain on Aug. 15 did not have his body cam turned on. The department on its website released an edited video with narration, along with:

  • Body cam video from three other officers
  • Dash cam video
  • Video from a nearby surveillance camera.

The narrated video — which has become a common practice for law enforcement agencies releasing footage of police shootings — offers Pasadena police investigators' interpretation of what took place.

The video that was released, and is available to view on the city's website, shows McClain exit the front passenger seat, turn toward the rear of the vehicle and then start running around the back of the car and up the street. McClain has his right hand in his right pocket and his left hand near his waist — at that point a flash of what appears to be metal can be seen in the video.

The department said "the natural swinging motion of the individual's arms while running revealed what both officers immediately recognized as a firearm in his left hand." According to police, at that point McClain looked in the officers' direction over his shoulder, which prompted the officer who shot him to fear that McClain was turning to shoot. While the video shows McClain's head turn to the side briefly, his back remains toward the officers. It's not clear in the footage released if he is carrying something in his left hand.

The unidentified officer fired two shots at McClain about four seconds after he started to run away. The video shows McClain continuing to run for some time before he collapsed.

"Unless Mr. McClain had pistols pointing from his back, he should be alive and well and with his children," said McClain family attorney Caree Harper. "A bullet shot to the back is rarely, if ever, justified. And it is not justified in this case."

The department said McClain threw his gun away during the chase, and it showed photos of a gun it said was recovered nearby. Pasadena police also said that a witness told them in a videotaped interview that they saw McClain throw away a gun.

The department has not released that video in order to protect the witness' identity, according to spokesman Lt. William Grisafe.

Anthony McClain (DMV photo provided by Pasadena Police Department)

McClain was on probation for a previous robbery conviction and was prohibited from possessing a weapon, the department said.

He was a passenger in a car that was pulled over Saturday night on Raymond Ave. for not having a front license plate, according to the police.

A DEDICATED FATHER

Nathan Barry waited outside Pasadena City Hall Thursday before police showed his family the video of the shooting. Barry said McClain was his uncle and remembered him as a dedicated father who was always there to uplift people around him.

"I don't want all this attention and all this gravity towards him because none of it is going to bring him back," Barry said. "But I do want the cop who shot him to pay, just like any other person would pay for shooting him."

Protesters have taken to the streets in Pasadena several times since the killing.

Earlier this week, the police department released body cam footage that shows what took place hours after the shooting at La Pintoresca Park, which is close to where McClain was killed.

After news of the shooting spread on social media, a small crowd gathered at the park, and a number of officers went to the scene. In the video, as some people get into heated exchanges with police, one officer fires a taser at a man, who falls to the ground.

The department claimed in a statement the man "threatened to assault a police officer."

After that encounter, officers used pepper spray on the crowd, and "a minor who was present at the location, was indirectly exposed to the pepper spray," the department said.

On Thursday, McClain family attorney Harper criticized the police department's timeframe for releasing the video of the shooting.

"The video with the young man being tased in the park, that came out almost immediately," Harper said. "So wouldn't you think that the other video would come out almost immediately if it portrayed exactly what they said?"

PASADENA CONSIDERS MORE POLICE OVERSIGHT

The fatal shooting comes at a time when the Pasadena City Council is debating police oversight.

On Aug. 3 the council rejected a proposal to place a measure on the November ballot asking voters to create a citizen-led police oversight commission and an auditor. It would have given the auditor subpoena power, and both bodies would have had the power to monitor police investigations in real time and to influence police personnel decisions.

Instead, the council will consider on Aug. 24 proposals to create weaker versions of the two oversight bodies: They would only be able to review cases after the fact, and they would report to the council.

Vice Mayor Tyron Hampton, who's also a member of the council's public safety committee, said he'd like the auditor to be independent of the city manager and the police department.

The process has "not been the most transparent," Hampton said, adding that more than 1,000 people have corresponded with the city about police oversight.

The investigation into McClain's shooting continues. In addition to inquiries underway by the L.A. District Attorney's office and Pasadena police, the city of Pasadena has said it will initiate an independent third party review.

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