CORONA (CBSLA) – A grand jury has declined to bring criminal charges in the case of an intellectually disabled man who was shot and killed by an off-duty Los Angeles police officer following a physical confrontation between the two in a Corona Costco back in June, according to the Riverside County District Attorney.
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.
Surveillance video released Wednesday appears to show French physically striking Sanchez while Sanchez was holding his 18-month-old son in his arms. Sanchez then fired off 10 rounds from a handgun.
“Salvador Sanchez was shopping at Costco with his family when he was assaulted by Kenneth French,” Corona Police Chief George Johnstone told reporters Wednesday. “Sanchez was holding his young child at the time of this assault. Sanchez fired his firearm striking Kenneth and both of Kenneth’s parents.”
Sanchez suffered minor injuries, but his son was not hurt.
District Attorney Mike Hestrin told reporters a grand jury convened earlier this month and recommended no criminal charges should be brought against Sanchez for the shooting. Hestrin explained that 12 of the 19 members of the grand jury had to agree on charges for Sanchez to be indicted.
“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,” Hestrin said.
The shooting created chaos in the store, sending shoppers scurrying for the exits. Corona police officers had initially responded to reports of an active shooter.
Grainy and distant surveillance video of the confrontation, which had been sealed under a court order, was shown at the news conference. It appears to show French striking Sanchez and both men falling to the ground.
Another piece of video from a different surveillance camera in the store was released Wednesday afternoon by LAPD. Also grainy and far away, it showed a different angle of the incident and caught the moment when shoppers at the Costco store began to flee.
“One of the pieces of information that I think was uncontroverted was that the off-duty officer was struck by Kenneth French, struck in the head, and he went down as he was holding his infant child, and it all happened very fast, about less than four seconds from the moment that he struck to the moment that he fired,” Hestrin said.
“There was approximately 3.8 seconds between when Mr. Sanchez was struck and the first round was fired,” said Joe DelGiudice, chief of the Bureau of Investigation for the DA’s office.
Sanchez fired 10 total rounds, four of which struck French. He was hit three times in the back and once in the shoulder, Johnstone told reporters. One round each struck French’s parents.
“The officer after being struck, thought he had been shot and believed there was an active shooter in front of him,” Hestrin said.
Sanchez, who has been with LAPD since 2012, has since been on paid administrative leave while the Riverside County D.A.’s Office investigates.
Hestrin said that just because Sanchez won’t face state criminal charges, he could still face department discipline or civil action.
“This officer may face civil liability, he may face administrative action, he may lose his job,” Hestrin said.
Sanchez’s attorney Ira Salzman told CBS2 Wednesday his client reacted with relief at the news he’d face no charges, saying, “Thank God, thank God, my family now has peace.”
David Winslow, a different attorney representing Sanchez, had previously claimed that his client was hit from behind without warning and was knocked unconscious as he held his son. When he awoke, he feared for his life and opened fire.
In a news conference last month, Russell and Paola French gave a different account of the series of events. 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.”
The French family has filed a complaint – the precursor to a lawsuit – against both LAPD and the city of L.A. that alleges Sanchez acted based on “inadequate and inappropriate training.”
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)