A former Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officer was arrested on August 10, 2021, and charged with the 2019 killing of an intellectually disabled man who slapped him in a Southern California Costco store.
The now-fired officer, 30-year-old Salvador Sanchez, faces one count of involuntary manslaughter and two counts of assault with a semiautomatic handgun for the incident, which unfolded at the store in Corona on June 14, 2019.
Sanchez was off-duty and shopping in the Corona store with his 18-month-old son when he was allegedly struck in the back of the head without provocation by 32-year-old Kenneth French, who was described as both mentally disabled and nonverbal. Sanchez, who was knocked to the ground, claimed he thought he had been shot. He said that he feared for his life and that of his child when he stood and fired his service weapon, killing French and wounding French’s parents in a flurry of bullets that sent panic through the store.
The surviving Frenches, Paola, 59, and Russell, 58, disputed the officer’s testimony that he feared for his life, insisting they and their son were moving away when Sanchez fired. Documents from LAPD indicate that the officer was at least 20 feet away when he shot and fatally struck the younger French in the back. Paola French was also shot in the back, lending further credibility to her account. She required several surgeries, as did Russel French, who ultimately lost a kidney from his injuries.
Sanchez also claimed to believe that French was armed, though no witnesses corroborated that and no other firearm was recovered at the scene.
Because he identified himself as a police officer both before and after the shooting, no bystanders attempted to intervene. But neither did Sanchez offer any aid to the members of the French family he shot.
In December 2019, Paola and Russell French sued both Sanchez and LAPD, which terminated the officer in July the following year.
“If it was anyone other than a police officer who went into a Costco with a concealed gun, pulled it out because they believed someone pushed them or hit them, and fired 10 shots, killing a mentally disabled man and hitting his parents, they would not be pulled out of that Costco without being detained, arrested and put in jail,” argued Dale K. Galipo, a civil rights attorney representing the French family in their suit.
A Riverside County grand jury declined to indict Sanchez in 2019, so the charges against him were filed by state Attorney General Rob Bonta (D), who has promised to respond more aggressively to officer-involved fatal shootings.
Sources: Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, KCBS-TV
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