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The fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by Pasadena police last weekend shares of eerie similarities to the Trayvon Martin case, but there are complications that are blurring the line over who to blame.

Last Saturday night, officers in Pasadena were responding to a 911 call about an armed robbery when they shot and killed the 19-year-old suspect, Kendrec McDade, after he reportedly reached into his waistband while trying to flee. However, after it was later discovered that McDade and his accomplice were both unarmed, police later arrested the victim of the robbery because he lied when he told the 911 dispatcher that the men had a gun. The caller, Oscar Carrillo, has even been charged with involuntary manslaughter.

However, despite the fact that they were acting on misinformation, community members say that shouldn't let the police off the hook for killing yet another unarmed black youth. The arrest of Carrillo is seen by some as an attempt to deflect blame away from officers, who fired at least eight shots at McDade — although it's also hard to argue that he didn't negatively influence the police response and contribute to McDade's death. 

While McDade is a much less sympathetic victim than Martin — he actually was committing a crime, and his companion is a gang member on probation — and police were clearly misled about the situation they were facing, it doesn't change the fact that someone is still dead who shouldn't be. And for some in the African-American community the entire episode is tinged with the same racial stereotyping that hangs over the Martin case and so many others like it. If the two officers (who names and ethnic backgrounds have not been released) face no discipline for killing an unarmed suspect, it will only increase the distrust between the community and the police — an trust that is already fragile to begin with. With the country already polarized over the Martin case and the "shoot first, ask questions later" mentality that has led to so many tragic deaths, this story could become yet another wedge between the two sides.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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