PASADENA, Calif. — Oscar Carrillo's 911 call was clear: Two young men just robbed him of his computer and backpack. At least one of them had a gun and it was pointed in Carrillo's face.
Moments later, police caught up with two teens they believed were the thieves in a Pasadena alleyway. When one of them, Kendrec McDade, made a move at his waistband, an officer opened fire, killing the 19-year-old college student, authorities said.
No weapons or the stolen items have been found.
Now, police are laying part of the blame for the fatal shooting on Carrillo, who they say admitted that he lied about the men being armed so officers would respond faster. "The actions of the 911 caller set the minds of the officers," police Chief Phillip Sanchez said.
As the nation focuses on the fatal shooting of Florida teen Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watchman, the police shooting in Pasadena raises more questions about the role and responsibility of those who report or witness crimes.
While experts say it's not uncommon for people to exaggerate the circumstances of a crime — especially if they are the victim — most are unaware about the importance of their role in an emergency response and the potential consequences.
"Lots of people's lives are in jeopardy," said Joseph Pollini, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. "If you make a bogus call, you may be taking away from something where someone else's life is in danger."
Pollini said the Pasadena case is a good example of holding people accountable.
"To a certain degree he (Carrillo) is liable for what he caused the police to do what they did," Pollini said. "There should be a thorough investigation."
Caree Harper, an attorney representing McDade's family, said arresting Carrillo may be an attempt by police to shift blame away from the officers. Harper added that Carrillo should be prosecuted for filing a false police report.
"However, he didn't pull the trigger and the officers can use discretion," she said. "They can't blame the caller because they shot an unarmed black man."
Calls seeking comment from police on Thursday were not immediately returned.
Carrillo has been arrested for investigation of involuntary manslaughter. Prosecutors are weighing whether to file charges. The juvenile with McDade was charged with two counts of commercial burglary, one count of grand theft and one count of failure to register as a gang member as a condition of his probation.
Police said the teens matched descriptions provided by Carrillo, witnesses and surveillance footage.
Scott Thorpe, of the California District Attorneys Association, said he's not aware of any cases in the state where prosecutors have filed charges against someone for the consequences of a false 911 call.
On the call, the dispatcher asked: "Do they have any weapons?"
"Yeah, they have a gun," Carrillo replied.
McDade was spotted in an alley about two blocks from the spot where Carrillo told police he'd been robbed, Sanchez said. McDade ran from police until an officer used the police cruiser to block his path in an alley and rolled down his window, authorities said.
McDade made the motion at his waistband and the officer opened fire, police said. A second officer who was chasing McDade on foot also opened fire. McDade, a Citrus College student and a high school football standout, died at a nearby hospital.
One state lawmaker compared McDade's shooting to that of Martin's. Martin, who also is black, was killed last month during a confrontation with George Zimmerman. Martin was walking home from the store. Zimmerman said the 17-year-old Martin attacked him.
Police haven't charged Zimmerman, who has a white father and Hispanic mother. That has set off widespread public outrage and protests across the country.
Pasadena police haven't released the officers' names or their ethnicities.
Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, said that like the Martin case, the Pasadena shooting highlights the need for a continuing discussion about racial profiling.
"The bigger picture is bias and racism," said Mitchell, secretary of the Legislative Black Caucus. "And while the particulars of the two cases may be different — while the perpetrator who actually fired the weapon may be different — the fact of the matter is two young black men are dead."
The Los Angeles County of Independent Review will investigate McDade's shooting, Sanchez said.
Pasadena police accepted many of that agency's recommendations two years ago in connection with the fatal shooting of Leroy Barnes Jr. Police acknowledged they incorrectly reported that Barnes fired his gun at officers before being shot during a traffic stop. Barnes was killed in the backseat of his car during a struggle over a gun, police said.
Harper, the McDade family attorney, said she is considering filing a federal civil rights lawsuit but will hold off on any decisions until a full investigation is done.
"We will let the police do their investigation but we are mindful of the facts as they stand now are suspicious," Harper said. "To continue to perpetrate the story they are giving only exacerbates the family's emotional distress."
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