CORONA (CNS) - The Los Angeles Police Commission today found that an off-duty police officer acted outside of department policy when he shot a 32- year-old man to death and injured his parents at a Costco in Corona last year.
The victim, Kenneth French, was described by his family as non-verbal and intellectually disabled.
The shooting occurred inside the store at 480 N. McKinley St. on June 14, 2019. Witnesses said they heard an argument in the freezer section of the store, followed by gunfire
Corona police said the off-duty officer -- later identified as Salvador Sanchez -- was shopping at Costco with his family, holding his child in his arms, when, "without provocation, a male unknown to the officer's family assaulted the officer."
According to the officer's attorney, David Winslow, Sanchez briefly lost consciousness, and when he awoke, he was on the ground and his 18- month- old son was next to him screaming. Winslow said the officer "had no choice but to use deadly force."
The commission voted unanimously Wednesday to adopt Police Chief Michel Moore's recommendation to find that Sanchez, who was named in a lawsuit from the French family, improperly drew his weapon and used lethal force against French in the incident.
The case will now be subject to Moore's discretion, Police Commission officials told City News Service.
Police officers have the option of having their discipline cases heard by an all-civilian review board of three members or they can choose two command-level officers and a civilian to hear their case. Moore's disciplinary recommendations, if any, were not immediately available.
Sanchez was placed on leave pending adjudication of the incident.
Moore's report on the incident stated the officer felt as if he'd been "shot" after being struck by French. When the officer looked back at French, the officer said it appeared French may have been holding a firearm, although one was not recovered in French's possession.
Moore said Sanchez did not take the time to assess the situation.
Conflicting stories emerged over the circumstances that led to the fatal shooting, with the dead man's relatives calling for the officer's arrest. Several people who called into Wednesday's Police Commission meeting said Sanchez should be fired.
Dale Galipo, an attorney for the French family, has told reporters in various interviews that French -- having recently been taken off his medications due to health reasons -- pushed or shoved the officer in the back in a food-sample line, but he denied that there was any deadly threat to the officer. He also said French's father tried to explain to the officer that his son was intellectually disabled.
The resulting shooting "was a complete overreaction on behalf of this police officer," Galipo told reporters.
French's parents sued the city of Los Angeles and the officer in December. The Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges battery, negligence, civil rights violations and both intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The complaint seeks unspecified damages.
"If it was anyone but a police officer who went into a Costco and fired 10 shots (and killed somebody), they would've been arrested and charged with murder," Galipo said at the time.
Sanchez is named as a co-defendant in the suit, which states that the gun he used to shoot French was issued to him by the LAPD. In addition, the officer's training in the use of deadly force was "totally inadequate and inappropriate," the suit alleges.
Kevin French, the decedent's younger brother, said Kenneth was "just a loving, caring human being who never hurt anyone."
The Corona Police Department worked with the Riverside County District Attorney's Office in its investigation of the shooting. The LAPD, meanwhile, conducted its own administrative investigation, in conjunction with Corona police, according to the department.