Kenneth McDade spends a great deal of his days pretending. Pretending to be okay. Pretending to focus. Pretending that the words those who mean well are helping. He can even manage a smile here and there.
Nights, however, are not so easy. "At the end of the day when I get to the house", he says, tears streaming down his face, "this is where I'm at." Over and over again he replays the events of March 24, 2012 almost as if the outcome won't be the same. And night after night, he wakes up with the realization that his 19-year old son, Kendrec is indeed dead.
Fact is, things will never return to normal for McDade, whose life's purpose—at least for now— is getting to the bottom of what happened that night.
His real-life nightmare began a day later, early the morning of March 25 when he went to his front porch to have coffee and noticed a police helicopter hovering above. Curious, he was walking around the corner to see what was going on when a friend tells him that there has been a shooting and his son might have been involved. "I get around the corner and everything is blocked off—police tape and everything," McDade recounts. "I'm asking police on the scene what was going on, but they were just telling me to get back. Overhearing the exchange, a news reporter approaches McDade.
"I told her who I was and that I was looking for my son who was about 19 years old and had- n't come home last night. She started telling me what she knew—that a crime had gone down and one of the guys involved was killed and the other one had been arrested."
McDade then goes back to the police and a detective finally comes to talk to him, escorting him back to his home to verify his identification. On the subsequent ride to the police station, McDade gets the police account of what hap- pened. Police had been responding to false 9-1-1 call of an armed robbery by Oscar Carrillo, whose car, it turns out, had been burglarized. Pasadena Police Chief Sanchez claimed to be in possession of a videotape shot near the taco truck where the alleged theft occurred showing a 17-year-old minor reaching into Carrillo's car and allegedly grabbing both a backpack and a laptop computer while McDade acts as a lookout.
McDade, a college student and high school football standout, was spotted by police two blocks from the site of the alleged burglary and reportedly ran from police until one of the officers used the police car to block his path. Neither the cruiser's sirens or lights—which reportedly would have activated the car's video camera—were on. "He said that Kendrec was reaching for a waist- band and the officer thought he saw a gun. One police shot out the window and the other police shot from behind. I never heard of a police officer shoot- ing out of a car—that's a drive by to me all day, and then he rode down the street and posted up".
McDade felt uneasy about what police were say- ing from the very beginning.
"Everything he was saying was incriminating— like my son's a criminal and I know better," he says of the teen who lived with his Mom in Azuza while visiting his Dad in Pasadena most weekends. "I never had no problem out of him like that. Regardless of the fact of what he tried to tell me, I know my kid and I know how these officers are. They'll just lie to cover their selves and that's what he was doing the whole time. "The [police] chief came to the hospital that night and he was telling me that he had kids and this, that and the other. Like I told him all this is just like something scripted you're used to saying all the time, you can save all that." McDade was more interested in answers to ques- tions that were surfacing. Why were the officer's headlights not on. Had they actually identified themselves as police before they started shooting? Why no police video? Why handcuff his dying son, instead of providing medical assistance? Why shoot him seven times —most of the bullets shot at a downward trajectory as if the teen was falling at the time of the shooting or while surrendering to police in a kneeling position? Perhaps most importantly, what threat had his son ever really posed to police?
"They know the answers. Tell us, if you're not try- ing to hide anything."
He wasn't alone in his desire for answers as the shooting—which occurred less than a week after Trayvon Martin's death exploded on the national news scene— captured the attention of local news, the Pasadena NAACP and the likes of the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, sparking independ- ent investigations by the FBI, the Pasadena Police Department Internal Affairs Bureau and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Officer Involved Shooting team.
In their own efforts to get to the truth, McDade and Kendrec's mother, Anya Slaughter, retained