A Los Angeles police officer who fatally shot a developmentally disabled man and wounded the man’s parents while off-duty inside a Corona Costco store will not face any criminal charges, Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said Wednesday.
Hestrin said prosecutors presented the case to a grand jury, which declined to indict Officer Salvador Sanchez for the June 14 shooting death of 32-year-old Kenneth French.
Hestrin said prosecutors opted to present the case to a grand jury because there were witnesses, “maybe because of the media attention, that were not cooperative and wouldn’t speak to investigators.”
French was killed when Sanchez opened fire after what the officer’s attorney has described as a life-threatening assault by French. Sanchez, a Southwest Division patrol officer who has been with the Los Angeles Police Department since May 2012, was placed on paid administrative leave after the shooting.
French’s parents, Russell and Paola French, were both injured in the gunfire.
Dale Galipo, an attorney for the French family, has said French and his parents had been shopping for a half-hour when they stopped at a food sample booth. For unknown reasons, French got into an altercation with Sanchez, shoving the off-duty officer to the floor. The officer was holding his 18-month-old son at the time.
The officer’s attorney, David Winslow, said 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. He asserted that French’s action amounted to “a violent attack.”
Galipo has disputed that portrayal of events. He said witnesses have indicated that Sanchez took the time to hand his son to his wife before pulling his firearm and shooting the French family.
Paola French was shot through the back and stomach with a single round. She was in a coma for weeks at Riverside Community Hospital, Galipo said. Her husband suffered a gunshot to the abdomen and lost a kidney because of the life-threatening wound, the attorney said.
He said the parents and their son were moving away from Sanchez, increasing their distance from him when the off-duty officer opened fire. Galipo surmised up to eight rounds were discharged.
In a tearful news conference last month, Russell French said he pleaded with Sanchez not to open fire, telling him that his son was unarmed and developmentally disabled.
“I begged and told him not to shoot. I said, `Our son is sick,”’ Russell French said. “I said we have no guns. He still shot.”