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Opinion

Costco shooting: Readers aren’t buying the off-duty cop’s explanation

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Kenneth French is shown with his mother, Paola French.
(Louana D’Cunha / Associated Press)

Police shootings typically split reader opinion fairly evenly. Often in the immediate aftermath they draw letters from people angered by them, then over time prompt other readers to express views more sympathetic to the officers. The tragedy at the Costco in Corona on June 14 isn’t one of those shootings.

I point this out because we’ve received a few inquiries from readers wondering why all but one of the letters published so far have been critical of the off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer who killed 32-year-old Kenneth French and wounded his parents after an altercation with the intellectually disabled French. As of this writing, that letter, from a retired LAPD captain, was one of only two we’ve received suggesting that the shooting may have been justified.

Every other letter has expressed opinions similar to the ones below.

Victor Ibergs wonders if the off-duty officer could have de-escalated the situation:

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This story is incredible. We are being asked to believe that some strangers randomly picked a fight with someone they did not know while that person was holding a child.

Further, we are being asked to believe that a trained police officer could not defuse the situation without resorting to discharging his firearm in a Costco store with other people nearby.

From what has been disclosed, I cannot help but wonder if any of the officer’s words or actions could have contributed to the unfortunate chain of events.

Eureka resident Chery Rout mentions her “challenged” grandchild:

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When the shooting was first reported, we were told that a man was “assaulted” and a shooting ensued. Then we found out that the shooter was a police officer, shopping with his family.

Developments since then have knocked me to the ground. The man who “assaulted” the off-duty officer was intellectually disabled and non-verbal. Exactly how was this officer assaulted? Why did the officer shoot the man’s parents too?

As it happens, I have a challenged grandchild. Thankfully, she is quite verbal, but if she bumped into someone (grace isn’t her strong suit), I would hate to think that the person’s response would be to shoot her.

More information is needed. In the meantime, this officer should not be carrying a gun.

Lisa Gates of West Hollywood expresses concern for her daughter:

I have a child with intellectual disabilities who is non-verbal. She is 13 years old now and has a mixed bag of skill sets, far below her chronological age. She is learning to be more autonomous in the world, albeit with constant help, and is only beginning to understand what is socially acceptable.

She hugs a lot and has to learn how and when that is appropriate.

I was horrified when I read the story of the French family. We have grown up with the phrase regarding the police, “To serve and to protect.” The officer in this case failed.

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