By Ray Richardson
INGLEWOOD — A six-year review by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office of a 2016 fatal shooting by Inglewood police officers that left two people dead has ended with no formal charges against the officers, raising more concerns about police accountability in cases of alleged excessive and deadly force.
“I strongly disagree with the decision,” Najee Ali, executive director of Project Islamic Hope, said of L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón’s decision not prosecute the five officers who fired the fatal shots that killed Marquintan Sandlin and Kisha Michael. “There was no justification for them being shot to death. I still believe these two people were unjustly murdered.”
The 36-page review concluded “there was insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers’ use of deadly force was unlawful” when they encountered Sandlin and Michael on the night of Feb. 21, 2016.
Gascón admitted he was torn with the decision when he announced the review’s findings.
“We know this is excruciating and that the families are understandably devastated,” Gascón said in a statement. “We do want to be clear. The burden of proof for prosecution is high. Our decision does not mean what happened is right.”
Gascón said both families were informed of his decision before he announced it publicly. He stood by his ruling despite claims in the review that some reports submitted by the Inglewood police in the investigation were “incomplete.” Gascón did not address the incomplete reports in his statement.
During his campaign for district attorney in 2020, Gascón was highly critical of former District Attorney Jackie Lacey for never filing charges against police officers accused of using excessive or deadly force.
Though the five officers will not face formal charges, all five were fired in 2017 after an internal review by Inglewood Police Chief Mark Fronterotta. A year later, the five officers — Richard Parcella, Andrew Cohen, Sean Reidy, Michael Jaen and Jason Cantrell — filed a discrimination lawsuit against the city of Inglewood. A jury trial is tentatively set to begin next January.
“In police work, bad things are going to happen,” said Inglewood Mayor James Butts, a former police officer and police chief. “This is one of those cases. The chief didn’t feel the officers acted in a tactical manner. He didn’t agree with their actions and dismissed them.”
The city of Inglewood reached a reported $8.6 million settlement with the Sandlin and Michael families in a civil case involving the shooting.
According to the original police reports, Sandlin and Michael were asleep in a Chevy Malibu that had stopped in the middle of westbound Manchester Boulevard at Inglewood Avenue around 3 a.m. Sandlin was driving. Two officers approached the vehicle and noticed a handgun resting on Michael’s lap. The vehicle’s windows were up and doors were locked.
More officers were called to the scene, including supervisory personnel. The use of a Bearcat vehicle from the Hawthorne Police Department was also called in for support.
According to the review, the police contingent tried for more than 40 minutes to awaken Sandlin and Michael with the use of loudspeakers and sirens. The Bearcat was used to nudge the Chevy Malibu several times while Sandlin and Michael were asleep.
Officers decided to “box in” the Malibu with police cars in front, behind and to the side of the vehicle.
Sandlin eventually began to move inside the vehicle. Officers ordered him to step out of the car, but he attempted to drive away. Sandlin’s car hit the police vehicle in front of him and the one behind him when he tried to back up.
Sandlin stopped the car. As he stepped out of the car, the review indicates he made a motion to reach inside the car, prompting officers to fire at him. Sandlin was struck in the head and shoulder. He was taken to a hospital where he later died.
Michael, seated on the passenger side, was ordered out of the car. According to the review, as she exited the car, she appeared to reach inside the car. Officers fired at Michael, striking her 13 times. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
At the time of the shooting, it was criticized by Ali and other community activists.
“The slaying of Michael and Sandlin raise many questions about the circumstances of the slaying, and whether deadly force was necessary in the case,” activist Earl Ofari Hutchinson said at the time. “Given the failure of Inglewood police officials to make full disclosure about the shooting, to tell what steps were taken to minimize the use of deadly force, and what, if any, policies and procedures were violated in the shooting, a full federal probe to determine the facts is warranted.
Six years later, Ali still isn’t satisfied.
“The excuse police always use when it comes to Black people is that they were in fear of their lives,” Ali said. “There is no justice with this situation.”
Ray Richardson is a contributing writer for The Wave Newspaper. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.