PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — 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.
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