There are “more questions than answers” about last week’s deadly Costco shooting, Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said, and he’s certainly got that right.
It is hard not to ask questions about the incident in which an off-duty LAPD officer shot 32-year-old Kenneth French to death at the warehouse store in Corona on Friday night. The officer also shot French’s parents, both of whom remain hospitalized in critical condition.
Police officers are supposed to be trained to deescalate tense situations. And obviously, officers should use the lethal weapons they carry only as a last resort, and only when their own lives or someone else’s is in imminent danger. So what happened here?
Accounts from witnesses, lawyers for the parties and the Corona and Los Angeles police departments fill in some of the details. French has been variously described as mentally ill or mentally disabled. He allegedly pushed the officer, identified by multiple sources as patrol officer Salvador Sanchez, who was holding his 18-month-old child. At some point, Sanchez’s lawyer says, the officer was knocked unconscious. When he came to, something happened, and he shot.
But what if he weren’t a cop? Wouldn’t he be in jail right now, instead of at home awaiting the results of the investigation? Or what if he weren’t armed? Might this altercation have ended with a handshake? What if he had received better training on dealing with mentally ill people? Or did he have the right training and just ignored it?
Or what if French’s father had not stepped between his son and the officer at a critical moment? How hard was that push, and did it endanger the officer’s infant child? Is the push what led to the officer’s alleged loss of consciousness?
And is it worth even asking these questions before the store surveillance video is publicly released and the two police departments’ investigations are complete?
Perhaps not. But still we ask, because of the sheer tragedy of an unarmed man being shot to death in a public place, and because of the outrage — whether or not it’s ultimately justified by whatever additional facts emerge — over a police officer shooting an entire family.
We ask why off-duty police carry firearms, and are so quick to pull them.
And then we remember Joseph Gilbert Solano, the off-duty Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy who was senselessly shot to death earlier the same week as he waited in line at an Alhambra Jack in the Box. We ask why, and how, and what to do to make such tragedies less likely in the future.
And we remember how much easier it is to ask questions than to have all the answers.