A Riverside couple wounded when an off-duty Los Angeles police officer fatally shot their developmentally disabled son during what the lawman contends was an act of self-defense at a Costco in Corona are scheduled to speak publicly Monday about what happened.
Russell and Paola French, as well as their attorney, Dale Galipo, and other members of the French family are slated to join for a news conference at the Ayres Hotel in Corona, where they will give first-hand accounts of their experience on the night of June 14.
“Based on the investigation to date, this shooting was clearly excessive and unjustified and should have never happened,” Galipo said. “I will do everything in my power as a civil rights attorney to obtain justice for this family and hope that we may prevent or limit these unnecessary acts of violence in the future.”
The couple’s son, 32-year-old Kenneth French, was killed when LAPD Officer Salvador Sanchez opened fire after what his attorney has described as a life-threatening assault by Kenneth.
Sanchez, a Southwest Division patrol officer who has been with the police department since May 2012, is on paid administrative leave.
Kenneth French’s parents suffered gunshot wounds to the back when the lawman opened fire, according to Galipo, who said the injuries confirm “that they were not facing in Officer Sanchez’s direction at the time they were shot.” He said the couple have had a difficult physical recovery.
According to the attorney, the news briefing will focus on the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office investigation that began at the end of June, particularly the D.A.’s procurement of a court order barring any release of the in-store surveillance video for a year.
District Attorney Mike Hestrin declined to comment on the matter Friday.
He told City News Service in June that the Corona Police Department had submitted its findings on the Costco incident without a specific recommendation, leaving it to the D.A.’s office to make an unbiased determination regarding potential criminality.
Conflicting stories emerged over the circumstances, with the officer’s attorney, David Winslow, insisting his client responded appropriately.
Kenneth French, whom Galipo said was a diagnosed schizophrenic and nonverbal, was in the freezer section of the store at 480 N. McKinley St. when he came into contact with Sanchez, according to witnesses.
Corona police said the off-duty officer was shopping with his family, holding his 18-month-old son in his arms, when, “without provocation, (Kenneth French) assaulted the officer.”
According to Winslow, Sanchez was knocked to the floor and briefly lost consciousness. When he awoke, he found his son next to him, screaming. Winslow said his client “had no choice but to use deadly force” in self-defense.
Galipo told reporters that Kenneth French, who had recently been taken off of his medications for undisclosed reasons, pushed or shoved the officer in the back in a food-sample line, but he denied that there was any serious threat. He also said French’s parents tried to explain to the officer that their son was intellectually disabled.
Galipo called Sanchez’s response “a complete over-reaction.” He pointed out that, “if anyone other than an off-duty police officer had shot three unarmed civilians in a Costco, that person would be in jail and facing criminal charges for murder.”
Winslow, however, repudiated the “push or shove” description, saying French’s action amounted to “a violent attack.”
The officer suffered minor injuries, but his son was not hurt.