Attorneys for household of Black man killed by Pasadena police say video exhibits taking pictures was unjustified

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Attorneys for the family of a Black man who was fatally shot by a Pasadena police officer last year said Monday that video of the incident is evidence that the shooting was unjustified.

Attorneys Benjamin Crump and Caree Harper presented a video during a news conference that they say shows that as Anthony McClain lay bleeding on the sidewalk after being shot in the back by police while trying to flee, he told approaching officers “I can’t breathe.” Yet, one of them knelt on McClain’s back as he handcuffed him, Crump and Harper said.

One of the two gunshots that hit McClain traveled through his right lung before coming out of his chest, leading to fatal blood loss. McClain died a few hours later at Pasadena Huntington Memorial Hospital on Aug. 15, 2020.

Crump, a nationally renowned civil rights attorney representing some of the McClain’s family, said McClain’s shooting combines the elements of two high-profile police shootings. One was that of Jacob Blake Jr., who was shot while running from police in Wisconsin and left paralyzed; and the other was the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police as an officer knelt on his neck.

“Not only was Anthony McClain shot in the back like Jacob Blake Jr.,” Crump said. But in the aftermath, as officers handcuff him with his hands behind his back, they worsen his blood loss by kneeling on his back.

“You can hear him say hurry up, I cannot breathe,” Crump said of McClain. “And so you have elements of Jacob Blake Jr. and George Floyd both here in Anthony McClain’s death.”

Floyd was captured on video saying “I can’t breathe” in the minutes before his death, and the phrase has become synonymous with alleged police misconduct during the last year. Crump represents Blake’s family and secured a $27-million settlement for Floyd’s family.

McClain was a passenger in a car that Pasadena police stopped for having no front license plate. When Officer Edwin Dumaguindin asked him to step out of the car, McClain ran away down the street, dash and police body camera videos show. McClain is seen holding his midsection as he runs, and the Pasadena police chief alleges he grabbed a gun from his waistband and looked back toward the officer before being shot twice.

McClain’s lawyers say he was holding his belt.

A gun is not clearly visible in the video footage released by Pasadena police, but McClain is seen with his hand at his waist as he begins to run.

Up until now, lawyers for the family have repeatedly emphasized the foot chase video that shows Dumaguindin shooting McClain after he runs from a car he is a passenger in during a traffic stop.

But Crump said after the shooting, a police body camera video and a bystander video show McClain is desperately in need of medical help, and yet one officer still handcuffs McClain and puts his knee in his back.

“Go look at the video; it tells you about the mentality” of the police officers, Crump said.

In the video, the officer can be seen approaching McClain with a gun drawn. McClain’s white shirt is bloody on his right back quarter. The officer confers with another officer that they believe McClain tossed a handgun he was carrying. He then moves in to detain and treat McClain.

“I am passing out,” McClain said in the video footage. “Hurry up I cannot breathe.”

The officer asks McClain how many times he was shot and he says twice.

“I don’t have a gun,” McClain tells the officers in the video.

As the officer and another officer begin to handcuff McClain, a bystander video shows an officer’s left knee or thigh over McClain’s back but does not clearly show the exact position. The officer with the body camera tells onlookers, “I have got pressure, okay,” seeking to assure those watching he is trying to stem the bleeding. The officer can be heard repeatedly assuring McClain he is trying to help him.

But Harper said the officer’s body pressure on McClain quickened his blood loss. The department, in court papers responding to the lawsuit, recently identified that officer as Officer Serrano, according to Harper.

Pasadena Police Lt. Bill Grisafe said department policy allows the use of knees to restrain a detainee. Because of ongoing litigation, he would not discuss the specifics involving McClain.

Pasadena Police Chief John Perez, who released police videos of the shooting, has said he sees a gun in McClain’s left hand as he ran. Perez said the gun was recovered and a witness also saw McClain toss it. Forensics tests of the weapon also showed McClain’s DNA present on it, according to Perez.

Harper said McClain was holding his Michael Kors belt buckle. She and Crump also noted that the officer who recovered the handgun was among the last to arrive at the scene, and that raises questions.

Crump said the video of McClain “underscores the fact that there seems to be a propensity for police in America to shoot Black men in the back — disproportionately to anything we’ve seen them do to our white brothers and sisters.”