Costco shooting: Wildly different stories emerge of deadly encounter in food line
More details are emerging about what happened in the food-tasting line at a Costco in Corona on Friday night, prompting an off-duty LAPD officer to open fire, killing one man and injuring his parents.
The incident is under investigation by the Corona and Los Angeles police departments, and officials say video from the store may help illuminate what happened.
The officer, who was identified by multiple sources as Salvador Sanchez, a patrol officer in the Southwest Division, was holding his young son in the line when some kind of altercation occurred.
Both sides agree the man who was fatally shot, Kenneth French, pushed the officer. Family members say French had an intellectual disability.
But already, dueling narratives are emerging.
Here is what we know:
The LAPD officer’s view
The officer’s attorney, David Winslow, said his client was getting a food sample for his son when he was attacked and briefly knocked out by French.
“He was shopping with his wife and 1½-year-old at Costco. His son was in his arms, and he was feeding his son some samples when, within seconds, he was on the ground and woke up from being unconscious and he was fighting for his life,” Winslow said.
Corona police said the assault, which was captured on Costco security cameras, was unprovoked and led the officer to fire his 9-millimeter pistol.
The officer did not know of French’s disability at the time, according to a law enforcement source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The officer, who has not been officially identified, suffered minor injuries.
The French family’s view
Civil rights attorney Dale K. Galipo is representing the French family. He said it was unclear why Kenneth French pushed the officer in the food sample line.
Before the officer fired his gun, there was a gap in time when he declared he was a police officer and French’s father stepped between the two men. Galipo said the security video showed that interaction.
“His father was trying to intervene,” Galipo said.
French is normally calm, but he had had a recent change in medication that might have affected his behavior, Galipo said. The attorney said French was “nonverbal.”
Galipo said that the officer’s life was not threatened and that he instead acted out of anger because someone had pushed him.
“The shooting was excessive and completely unjustified,” Galipo said, noting that French was unarmed.
Corona Police Chief George Johnstone said in a video statement released Tuesday that his detectives would continue to interview witnesses and evaluate video and forensic evidence from the store.
“For several reasons, including the need to interview a number of witnesses and review evidence, no arrest was made at the time of the incident,” Johnstone said, noting the chaotic scene.
Galipo said the mother is still in critical condition and the father is in serious condition. Neither, the attorney said, is well enough to talk to investigators.
Johnstone said his department’s investigation had been hindered by not being able to interview everyone involved. It was unclear to whom he was referring.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore briefly addressed the shooting in front of the Police Commission on Tuesday, telling the panel, “There’s many more questions than answers at this point.”
“I’ll wait for the full investigation before commenting on the officer’s decision to use deadly force,” Moore said. “The use of deadly force, whether on- or off-duty, is a matter that is the most scrutinized decision that we have in this organization, and in this instance, it will be as well.”
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