Ex-Officer Who Killed Mentally Disabled Man Is Charged With Manslaughter

Ex-Officer Who Killed Mentally Disabled Man Is Charged With Manslaughter

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The California attorney general filed manslaughter and assault charges on Monday against a former Los Angeles police officer who shot and killed a mentally disabled man inside a Costco store in 2019.

The former officer, Salvador Sanchez, 30, was arrested on Monday in Riverside County and charged with one count of voluntary manslaughter and two counts of assault with a semiautomatic weapon, according to a criminal complaint.

Mr. Sanchez was off duty on June 14, 2019, when he killed 32-year-old Kenneth French and wounded his parents, Russell, 58, and Paola French, 59, during a confrontation. Mr. French, who relatives said had a mental disability and was nonverbal, had been shopping with his parents at a Costco in Corona, Calif., east of Los Angeles.

Rob Bonta, the attorney general of California, said in a statement that “where there’s reason to believe a crime has been committed, we will seek justice.”

“That’s exactly what these charges are about: pursuing justice after an independent and thorough review of the evidence and the law,” Mr. Bonta said. “Ultimately, any loss of life is a tragedy and being licensed to carry a gun doesn’t mean you’re not accountable for how you use it. No matter who you are, nobody is above the law.”

David Winslow, a lawyer for Mr. Sanchez, said in a statement that his client “was holding his baby when he was violently attacked and knocked to the ground” by Mr. French. Mr. Sanchez was momentarily knocked unconscious, Mr. Winslow said, and believed his life and his child’s life were in danger.

Dianne Bawit, a witness to the shooting, told The New York Times in 2019 that as Mr. Sanchez got up from the ground, appearing distressed, he pulled out his gun and fired several shots.

Mr. Winslow characterized the charges against Mr. Sanchez as “politically motivated” and said what his client did were the actions of “a father in self-defense and protecting his child.”

Dale Galipo, a lawyer for Russell and Paola French, did not respond to a request for comment on Monday. Gregory Salnick, a lawyer representing the family in the criminal investigation, declined to comment.

According to The Los Angeles Times, police documents show that Mr. Sanchez was at least 20 feet from Mr. French and his parents when he opened fire.

A Riverside County grand jury declined to indict Mr. Sanchez several months after the killing. He was fired in July 2020, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

Days after the killing, Rick Shureih, a cousin of Mr. French’s, said in a Facebook post that has since been made private: “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!”

Mr. Shureih also wrote that his family “was unarmed and was just grocery shopping.”

“Did he really have to shoot them all? Mr. Shureih said.


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