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Two Years of Official Silence Since a Controversial Inglewood Police Shooting

Los Angeles’ district attorney has had the violent deaths of Kisha Michael and Marquintan Sandlin under review for 477 days and counting.

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Remembering Kisha Michael. (Photo: Jason McGahan)

Kisha Michael was shot 13 times and Marquintan Sandlin eight times
as they sat in their car.


Two years ago Inglewood, California police officers shot and killed 31-year-old Kisha Michael and her friend Marquintan Sandlin, 32, after initially finding them unconscious and sitting in a stopped car on Manchester Boulevard.

Trisha Michael, Kisha’s identical twin, marked the February 21 anniversary with a sidewalk memorial at Manchester and Inglewood Avenue, where the deaths occurred. She and a dozen supporters adorned the pavement with prayer candles, a bouquet of red roses and protest signs with photos of Kisha Michael and Sandlin.

The circumstances that led police to fire on Michael and Sandlin remain shrouded in secrecy.

“It’s two years, and no justice has been served,” Trisha Michael said. “There’s no talk about it. It’s all on the hush-hush. A lot of stuff isn’t being said.”

As Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s review of the shooting enters its 16th month, Michael says the once high-profile case has faded somewhat from public memory.

Attorney Milton Grimes: “If you shoot someone who’s not threatening you, that’s a homicide.”

Police discovered Michael and Sandlin unconscious in a stopped car early on the morning of Sunday, Feb. 21, 2016 shortly after 3 a.m. The couple, both single parents, had been on a night out together. Trisha Michael says they were dating at the time and that it’s possible that after a night of partying both passed out.

Michael, in the passenger seat, had a gun in her lap, authorities say.

Police cleared the area of bystanders and blocked the sedan in front and back with police vehicles. Mayor James T. Butts told NBC4-TV that officers then “spent about 45 minutes attempting to rouse the occupants and to de-escalate the situation.” In 2017 the Los Angeles Times reported that Butts “would not corroborate that account to a Times reporter.”

Authorities have not said whether Michael or Sandlin reached for or touched the gun, or if the car they were in ever drove toward an officer. A statement from a coroner’s report notes only that “an unknown exchange occurred.”

Milton Grimes, an attorney representing Michael’s family in a lawsuit against the city, has received hundreds of pages of reports from the city and says there is no evidence to suggest Michael or Sandlin ever posed a threat to officers. “And if you shoot someone who’s not threatening you, that’s a homicide,” Grimes said.

Michael was shot 13 times and pronounced dead at the scene, while Sandlin, the driver, was shot eight times and pronounced dead a short time later at a nearby hospital. An autopsy recovered projectiles from at least two and as many as three different types of firearms–a shotgun, handgun and possibly a rifle–from Michael’s body. Grimes says witnesses reported that police fired as many as 100 shots at the pair in the car.

Toxicology tests later showed the blood-alcohol levels of both were above the legal limit, and that Michael had traces of methamphetamine in her system, which the coroner’s report said can be used to treat attention deficit disorder and obesity. Sandlin’s autopsy showed no drugs other than alcohol in his system.

In May 2017, Inglewood announced it had fired the five officers involved in the shooting, a move that brought renewed attention to the case and led legal experts to interpret it as an admission of guilt.

“That’s the thing about this case that gets my attention,” said Ambrosio Rodriguez, who worked on officer-involved shootings during a 13-year career as a deputy district attorney in Riverside County and is now a defense attorney in private practice. “Although the DA’s office hasn’t made a final decision as to criminal liability, the city on its own decided to let go of these officers through their own investigation that they haven’t released to the public. This is the old way of doing things, and Inglewood hasn’t caught up to the times.”

Through a spokesperson, Mayor Butts, a former Santa Monica police chief, declined to comment for this story. Kema Decatur, the deputy city manager, referred questions to City Attorney Kenneth Campos, who did not return phone calls.

Melanie McDade-Dickens, executive assistant to Mayor Butts, referred any questions about the city’s 15-month internal investigation of the shooting to the district attorney’s office. “This case is no longer with the city of Inglewood,” McDade-Dickens said.

The district attorney’s office has had the case under review since Nov. 8, 2016. Greg Risling, the district attorney’s office spokesman, said in an email, “Our office has been engaged in supplemental investigation since that time.”

A protocol the DA’s office uses in investigations of officer-involved shootings calls for the investigating agency to hand over all relevant reports within 90 days, “absent unusual circumstances.” It took the Inglewood Police Department 261 days to submit this case for review.

Under the same protocol, the DA’s office ordinarily issues a report of its findings within 60 days, with an exception for “where additional investigation is required.” The DA has had the police shooting of Michael and Sandlin under review for 477 days and counting.

Investigations longer than two years are not unheard of, said Peter Bibring, director of police practices at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

Though the length of the DA’s investigations of officer-involved shootings may vary, the outcomes have been uniform under Lacey and her predecessor, Steve Cooley. Public records show Lacey reviewed 441 officer-involved shootings during her first five years in office — between December 3, 2012, and November 28, 2017. She filed criminal charges in just one, against an off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer who shot and killed a man in a 2015 bar fight.

Cooley reviewed 343 officer-involved shootings during the final four years of his tenure, public radio station KPCC-FM reported in 2015. None of the officers was charged with a crime. If the Inglewood officers are charged, they would be the first charged for a shooting that occurred while on duty since 2000.

Trisha Michael, who pressed Inglewood officials for a year to release information about her sister’s death, has taken part in weekly protests since last fall outside Lacey’s office.

At the sidewalk memorial for her sister, Michael admits the long wait for a decision is difficult, and she isn’t overly confident Lacey’s review will result in charges.

“But I’m going to keep pushing for Kisha,” she said. “I’ll never stop until these officers find their day in court.”


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