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Costco shooting: Prosecutors deciding whether LAPD officer should be charged

Costco shooting: Prosecutors deciding whether LAPD officer should be charged
Kenneth French, right, with his parents Russell and Paola, was fatally shot June 14 during an encounter with an off-duty L.A. police officer at a Costco store in Coronoa. The parents were also wounded , (Rick Shureih)

The Riverside County district attorney’s office is reviewing whether to criminally charge an off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer for fatally shooting a 32-year-old man with an intellectual disability and wounding his parents in an altercation at a Costco store in Corona.

John Hall, a spokesman for the district attorney, said prosecutors got the case from Corona police on Thursday. The June 14 shooting left Kenneth French, 32, dead and his parents wounded.

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Typically, such an investigation involving police officers often takes months, but with a growing debate over the shooting, Corona’s police chief publicly said he was prioritizing the investigation and his detectives were reviewing evidence including security videos and interviewing witnesses.

The LAPD officer, identified by multiple sources as Salvador Sanchez, is a seven-year patrol officer in the Southwest Division. He was shopping with his family at a Costco store in Corona on June 14, carrying his young son in his arms. Nearby, a couple was roaming the aisle with their 32-year-old son, who family members and their attorney have said has an intellectual disability. The two families came together at a food sample line at the warehouse store when an altercation erupted, ending with gunfire from the officer.

Two sharply different accounts have emerged. Officials said there was video showing parts of the encounter, but that video has not yet been released.

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.

The French family attorney, Dale K. Galipo, said Kenneth French pushed the officer in the food sample line, but that the exchange wasn’t a justification for the shooting.

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.”

“The shooting was excessive and completely unjustified,” Galipo said, noting that French was unarmed.

The French parents — who family members said were dedicated caregivers to their son — are in the hospital. Paola French remains in critical condition. Russell French is slowly recovering but remains in serious condition, Galipo said.

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