Neighbors say deaf man killed by Okla. police couldn't speak

Last Updated Sep 22, 2017 10:30 AM EDT

OKLAHOMA CITY - A man who saw Oklahoma City police officers open fire on his deaf neighbor says the neighbor was developmentally disabled and also didn't speak.

Julio Rayos tells The Oklahoman that 35-year-old Magdiel Sanchez mainly communicated through hand movements. He says he believes Sanchez became frustrated trying to tell the officers what was going on.

Sanchez was carrying what officers described as a pipe and wasn't obeying the officers' commands before one shot him with a gun and the other with a Taser on Tuesday night, police Capt. Bo Mathews said at a news conference. He said witnesses were yelling "he can't hear you" before the officers fired, but they didn't hear them.

Rayos told the newspaper, however, that he thinks the officers heard him.

"I believe they did hear me because one of them turned around and looked at me," he said.

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Magdiel Sanchez was shot and killed by Oklahoma City police

KWTV

Sanchez, who had no apparent criminal history, died at the scene. The officer who fired the gun, Sgt. Chris Barnes, has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.

"I thought they could haven taken care of it a different way," said Rayos. "Me personally I could have probably taken care of it myself."           

Mathews said the officers were investigating a reported hit-and-run at around 8:15 p.m. Tuesday. He said a witness told Lt. Matthew Lindsey the address where the vehicle responsible for the hit-and-run had gone, and that Sanchez was on the porch holding what police initially described as a stick but later called a metal pipe when Lindsey arrived. Sanchez's father, who was allegedly driving the hit-and-run vehicle, said Sanchez wasn't in the vehicle when he struck something and drove off. It wasn't a person that was struck.

CBS affiliate KWTV reports that witnesses say the pipe Sanchez was holding was not a weapon but a stick he walked with and that he was using hand motions to communicate with the officers.

"In those situations, very volatile situations, you have a weapon out, you can get what they call tunnel vision, or you can really lock in to just the person that has the weapon that'd be the threat against you," Mathews said. "I don't know exactly what the officers were thinking at that point."

Jolie Guebara, who lives two houses from the shooting scene, told The Associated Press that she heard five or six gunshots before she looked outside and saw the police.

"He always had a stick that he would walk around with, because there's a lot of stray dogs," Guebara said.

Guebara said Sanchez, whose name she didn't know, wrote notes to communicate with her and her husband when he would occasionally stop and visit if they were outside.