CORONA (CBSLA) – The family of an intellectually disabled man who was shot and killed by an off-duty Los Angeles police officer in a Corona Costco back in June have sued the city of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Police Department.
On the night of June 14, 32-year-old Kenneth French of Riverside and his parents, Russell and Paola, were shot by off-duty LAPD Officer Salvador Sanchez while in line at a sample station at a Costco in Corona.
The shooting created chaos in the store, sending shoppers scurrying for the exits. Corona police officers responded to reports of an active shooter.
Sanchez's attorney David Winslow earlier claimed that his client was hit from behind without warning and was knocked unconscious as he held his 18-month-old son. When he awoke, he feared for his life and opened fire.
However, in a news conference Monday in Corona, Russell and Paola French gave a different account.
While they admitted that their son Kenneth did indeed push or strike Sanchez, the family claimed they pleaded with Sanchez not to open fire, trying to explain their son's condition.
"I told Officer Sanchez not to shoot, twice, I even said 'please,' I was pleading for our son and our lives," Paola said.
"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."
Dale Galipo, the French family attorney, told reporters that Kenneth, who had recently been taken off of his medications for undisclosed reasons, pushed or shoved the officer in the back. He also said French's parents tried to explain to the officer that their son was intellectually disabled.
Galipo called Sanchez's response "a complete over-reaction." He pointed out that, "if anyone other than an off-duty police officer had shot three unarmed civilians in a Costco, that person would be in jail and facing criminal charges for murder."
Sanchez, who has been with LAPD since 2012, has been placed on paid administrative leave while the Riverside County District Attorney's Office investigated. No charges have yet been filed. Costco allegedly has surveillance video of the incident, but a judge ordered that it not be released to the public.
Another attorney for Sanchez, Ira Salzman, said that neither he nor his client have seen that video. But, Salzman said, that since Sanchez feared for his life and for the life of his child, "our belief is that's excusable or justifiable homicide."
On Monday, the French family's attorney filed a complaint – the precursor to a lawsuit – against both LAPD and the city of L.A. that alleged Sanchez acted based on "inadequate and inappropriate training."
Winslow, however, had previously repudiated the "push or shove" description, saying French's action amounted to "a violent attack."
The French family has also demanded that the video be released.
Sanchez suffered minor injuries, but his son was not hurt.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)
for more features.