The attorney for an off-duty Los Angeles police officer who shot and killed a man inside a Corona Costco store said in a report published Monday that his client was getting a food sample for his 18-month-old son when he was attacked and knocked unconscious before awakening to find himself in a fight for his life.
“He was shopping with his wife and 1 1/2-year-old at Costco. His son was in his arms and he was feeding his son some samples when within seconds he was on the ground and woke up from being unconscious and he was fighting for his life, attorney David Winslow told the Los Angeles Times.
Meanwhile, a cousin of the man who was fatally shot by the officer stepped up pressure on investigators, saying the lawman should be behind bars.
“City of Corona Police Department my family has faith that you will do the right thing and arrest the gunman!” Rick Shureih, a cousin of 32-year-old Kenneth French, wrote on Facebook Monday morning.
“Our family has witness accounts that do not match up to the original story. We are a pro-police family. I have many friends in law enforcement. We need justice to prevail! Please review the surveillance tape!”
French was killed in the shooting that erupted at 7:46 p.m. Friday inside the store at 480 N. McKinley St. Two other people, identified by Shureih as French’s parents, Russell and Paola French, were critically injured in the shooting.
Corona police Officer Tobias Kouroubacalis issued a statement over the weekend saying the off-duty LAPD officer was shopping at Costco with his family, holding his young child in his arms, when, “without provocation, a male unknown to the officer’s family assaulted the officer.”
“This attack resulted in the officer firing his weapon, striking the male and two of the male’s family members. The family members are being treated at local hospitals and are in critical condition,” he said. “The off-duty officer was transported to a local hospital, where he was treated and released.”
The child was not injured.
Shureih described French as a mentally disabled “gentle giant” who rarely spoke.
“He (had) to be pretty much monitored,” Shureih told The Press-Enterprise. “He’s not the kind to trade words, so I don’t believe that a verbal confrontation happened.”
On Sunday, Shureih posted on Facebook a picture of French and his parents standing outside Universal Studios Hollywood, and wrote:
“`I’m not keeping quiet about this! People need to know! This is my family! These are the victims of the Costco shooting the other night. My cousin Kenneth was killed and his parents, my aunt & uncle were also both shot and are in ICU.
“Do they look intimidating to you? Did he really have to shoot them all? I’m posting this picture because the stories on social media have made them out to be the suspects, and the off-duty cop the victim.
“This is a family that was unarmed and was just grocery shopping. Truth will come out! I’m sure this was a misunderstanding that got escalated for no reason! If anyone was a witness please get in contact with us.”
Shureih said the family is working on hiring a lawyer and is seeking the name of the off-duty officer, as well as surveillance video and witness accounts to try to understand what happened. A GoFundMe page was also established to help with the French family’s expenses. The page notes that the family was shopping at Costco to prepare for a Father’s Day barbecue at their home.
The off-duty officer — assigned to the Los Angeles Police Department’s Southwest Station — suffered minor injuries in the confrontation, Officer Greg Kraft of the LAPD’s Media Relations Section said.
The LAPD declined to identify the officer, but the department said he had been placed on “administrative duty,” which could range from being assigned to home or desk duty. The department would not specify the type of post he had been assigned.
Corona police said the officer’s gun “was the only weapon involved in the incident, contrary to earlier reports. As is standard procedure in such investigations, the Corona Police Department is working closely with the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, who will be evaluating the facts and circumstances of this incident.”
The LAPD is conducting its own administrative investigation, in conjunction with Corona police, according to the department. Such administrative investigations, which can often take months, ultimately land in front of the Police Commission to determine if the officer acted within department policy.
Anyone who witnessed the shooting or has information about it was asked to contact Corona police Lt. Robert Newman at 951-817-5788 or via email at Robert.Newman@CoronaCA.gov.
When officers originally responded to the shots-fired call at the store, they anticipated an active-shooter situation, according to Lt. Jeff Edwards of the Corona Police Department.
“They (officers) went inside and encountered four subjects down,” Edwards said.
Several witnesses said they heard an argument break out near the freezer section of the store before shots rang out.
A friend of the French family, Sandra Serrao, who lives in the Toronto area said the family moved to California from Mississauga, Ontario a few years ago to care for Paola French’s parents.