No Criminal Charges for Off-Duty Police Officer Who Shot and Killed Mentally Ill Man at Costco

Kenneth French and his mother, Paola French.
Photo: Louana D’Cunha (AP)

Salvador Sanchez, an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department, will not face criminal charges for fatally shooting a nonverbal, mentally ill man who assaulted him in a California Costco.

On June 14, while off duty at a Costco in Corona, CA, Sanchez fatally shot Kenneth French and injured his parents, Russell and Paola French. According to a family attorney, Kenneth, 32, was nonverbal and had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Sanchez is reportedly on paid administrative leave from the LAPD.

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An investigation into the killing was presented to members of a grand jury, who decided not to return charges.

An attorney for the French family, Dale Galipo, said that Kenneth had given an “open-handed push or slap” to Sanchez’ back while the officer was shopping with his 18-month-old son.

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Sanchez fired off 10 rounds, killing Kenneth with three shots to his back and one to his shoulder. He also shot Paola in the back and Russell in the abdomen and chest, according to the family’s attorney.

“After hearing Officer Sanchez identify himself as a police officer, I begged and told him not to shoot,” Russell said. “I told him we have no guns and our son is sick. He still shot.”

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Ira Saltzman, an attorney for Sanchez, said the officer “was protecting his son, he thought he had been shot and felt like he had no other option.” As CBS reported:

[Riverside County District Attorney Mike] Hestrin said the incident happened “very fast,” with Sanchez firing less than four seconds after he was struck. The officer believed he had been shot and that he was firing at an active shooter, officials said during a Wednesday press conference, citing witnesses who heard him say he had been shot and saw him reach to the back of his head multiple times to look for blood.

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About 480 people have donated almost $70,000 to a fundraiser for the family.

“This is the most horrific tragedy of our lives,” wrote the fundraiser’s organizer, a family member.

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Hestrin insisted the grand jury made the decision after a full consideration of the case. “I could file charges despite what the grand jury did, but I’m not going to do that… this grand jury was attentive, they worked hard, they asked appropriate questions to our prosecutors,” he said on Wednesday.

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Previously, David Winslow, another attorney for Sanchez, had claimed that the police officer was pushed, fell, was knocked unconscious and dropped his child, came to, and then opened fire.

Galipo, the attorney for French’s family, disputed that chain of events.

“The officer, I think, just totally lost it, totally overreacted,” he said. “Maybe he was upset that someone pushed him. He was never unconscious as claimed.”

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Hestrin said Sanchez shot his handgun less than four seconds after Kenneth French touched him.

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