‘There is a problem with weapons in this town’ said Chief Perez
In the past year, Pasadena Police efforts have taken 180 guns off the street and seven in the past week alone, Chief John Perez told Pasadena Independent Monday.
Despite continuous efforts and enforcement, guns, often called ghost guns, still end up on the streets of Pasadena and often in the hands of criminals. Perez said his officers face this possibility every time they make a stop. Most stops do not turn fatal, he said.
However, on Saturday, Aug. 15, at about 7:53 p.m., two Pasadena police officers initiated a traffic stop on a car occupied by two men for an alleged vehicle violation on Raymond Avenue and Grandview Street. The rapid succession of events led to an officer involved shooting, leaving one Black male dead.
During the traffic stop, one of the passengers “became uncooperative, preventing a search of his person,” according to police. The passenger ran into the street and allegedly removed a firearm from the waistband of his pants. An officer fired his weapon twice striking Anthony McClain at least once in the flank of his body. McClain continued running as he discarded his firearm into the street.
The ensuing hours saw officers trying to preserve the scene for the initial investigation when scores of individuals descended upon La Pintoresca Park where an officer’s body worn camera caught severely upset and angry citizens, and a threat to knock out a police officer.
Disclaimer: Content warning for the videos below showing violent images and offensive language.
On Monday afternoon, Pasadena Independent was invited to a press conference along with other local news organizations regarding the incident. The two-hour meeting included the viewing of some of the incidents captured on officers’ body worn cameras both Saturday and Sunday at the scene.
In the light of the national attention to police shootings and resulting protests, Chief Perez said Pasadena police officers exercised considerable restraint in dealing with the aftermath of the shooting. Officers can clearly be seen standing in a semi-circle as protesters disregard the crime scene tape and verbally assault many of the officers on scene.
Around midnight police received several 911 calls of additional disturbances at La Pintoreca Park and more officers were dispatched. People began throwing rocks, and even a peanut butter jar, at officers who subsequently declared the gathering illegal and demanded that people disperse. The crowd continued to throw projectiles like bottles at the police.
Another incident, clearly visible, was when an officer deployed a taser on a suspect who made some threatening moves and was subsequently arrested.
While this was going on, a young boy was hit by pepper spray, the source of which remains unclear at this time. At some point, the mother of the boy discharged her own pepper spray at an officer. The woman was not immediately arrested pending the outcome of the investigation which will likely take months.
As Chief Perez along with members of his command staff sat with reporters to discuss the events of the past weekend, the role that misinformation and distrust of police played in the volatile situation was discussed. Rumors surfaced that McClain was not armed at all and was shot by police multiple times in the back, and then point-blank once he was on the ground. The video will prove otherwise, Perez said.
Perez said these social media claims are unfounded and highly irresponsible — making the police investigation more difficult and officers uneasy with the way the public perceives them.
“This is a local issue,” Perez said. “The rumor of there being no gun on the individual is completely false,” he said. The video tape, Perez said, shows McClain holding a weapon at some point. Perez hopes to release the video of the shooting soon.
Initial reports, again on social media, also said that the victim was shot in the back multiple times. Perez said this is false. “Two shots were fired by an officer, and one struck Mr. McClain in the ‘flank’ of his body… he fell to the ground.”
The social and economic impact of a shooting in any city can reverberate for years. The police would not confirm that the victim was a gang member but did say that a gang issue exists in Pasadena and felt that this past week tension was palatable.
Perez says the investigations will be numerous including an independent critique of the events on Saturday. Perez, in his new role as chief, for the past three years has initiated an effort for the department to be more transparent, especially when an officer involved shooting takes place and a death occurs as a result.
The officers involved in the shooting are on administrative leave. Chief Perez stated that there will be full transparency including four investigations one of which will be a completely independent investigation.
Perez also noted that there is – indeed – a serious problem with weapons in this city and hopes to continue to eliminate those illegal weapons and keep the community as safe as humanly possible.