CORONA (CBSLA) — The attorney representing the off-duty officer who shot three people, killing one, in a Costco store in Corona has released a statement saying the officer "feared for his life," but the attorney for the victim's family said that assertion is "absurd."
On Friday, June 14, an off-duty officer opened fire inside a Costco in Corona after he was allegedly attacked.
The officer shot and killed 32-year-old Kenneth French, who has been described as non-verbal and critically wounded French's parents.
According to attorney David Winslow, the unidentified officer was hit from behind without warning and was knocked unconscious as he held his 18-month-old son.
"The officer was off-duty. He was in Costco with his wife and 1-year-old baby. He was in line getting some samples and suddenly he was attacked from behind violently. With his child in one hand, and feeding him with the other, he was knocked to the concrete floor. This was done without any provocation. There were no words spoken, there was no argument," said Winslow.
Winslow said when his client awoke, he fatally shot Kenneth French, believing his life and the life of his child were in imminent danger.
"He was knocked unconscious momentarily. When he came to, he was laying on the concrete, his son was laying next to him on the concrete...screaming. There were other people screaming. The officer thought that this deadly threat was continuing and that's when the shooting occurred."
When asked if the officer feared for his life, Winslow responded, "He feared for his life. He didn't feel as though he had any other options. He was laying on the floor unprotected. He didn't have any cover, he didn't have any concealment...Unfortunately, the only option he had was to use deadly force."
But Dale Galipo, who represents the French family has a different take on the tragic situation.
"The officer, I think, just totally lost it, totally overreacted," Galipo said. "Maybe he was upset that someone pushed him. He was never unconscious as claimed."
Earlier reports from witnesses present at the time of the shooting said the gunfire started when two men got into an argument inside of the store.
Winslow went on to say that there were no words exchanged when the officer was "violently attacked" and there was no way for the officer to know that French was non-verbal, as he was later described as by family members.
Galipo said the evidence will show that French's father tried to explain his son's mental illness to the officer before being shot.
When asked the proximity of French's location to the officer once he regained consciousness, Winslow refused to answer as the investigation was still ongoing.
Winslow was asked what the witnesses, specifically the Costco employee handing out samples, have said to which he responded, "I don't know what any of the witnesses said. I'm not privy to any of that information."
CBSLA reporter Michele Gile asked if he had seen any video footage of the altercation to which Winslow said, "I have not seen any video. I would assume that there is some inside of a Costco."
"This is the last thing that (the officer) wanted to have happened on this Friday night when he was in a Costco with his little boy in one hand and his wife in the store also," said Winslow. "They went in there to get some food to have dinner, he's holding his son and interacting with his son, and then he's in a situation where he's encountered with a deadly threat to him and his child. He's upset by the entire set of circumstances. It's a terrible tragedy for everybody involved."
Winslow would not discuss details on the proximity of the others involved with the shooting when asked how French's mother and Father both sustained gunshot wounds as well, leaving them in critical condition.
Corona Police Chief George Johnstone released a video message Tuesday evening stating, "We are actively conducting our investigation...We assure you that our department is committed to conducting a fair, impartial, and thorough investigation."
The statement came following pressure from the public to arrest the officer and release the security footage from inside the store.
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