Costco shooting: LAPD officer wont face charges in killing of Kenneth French
Riverside County prosecutors on Wednesday announced they would notfile criminal charges against an off-duty Los Angeles police officer who fatally shot an intellectually disabled man in June during an altercation in a Costco store in Corona.
On Sept. 9, Dist. Atty. Mike Hestrin said his prosecutors presented the case to a Riverside grand jury of 19 people, which compelled testimony from witnesses to the gunfire inside the crowded warehouse store. Ultimately, the grand jury decided no charges were warranted against the off-duty officer, Salvador Sanchez, in the deadly shooting.
Hestrin said that prosecutors presented not only incriminating but exculpatory evidence, which California prosecutors are required to do, and that his office solicited questions from an attorney who represents Sanchez, who works as a patrol officer in the Los Angeles Police Department’s Southwest Division.
The district attorney could file charges despite the grand jury’s decision, but said he would not do so because the minimum number of jurors — 12 of the 19 — didn’t find evidence to indict.
He rejected the idea that Sanchez, as a law enforcement officer, received special treatment. “I stand by the decision of the grand jury,” Hestrin said.
Hestrin said that there was no previous altercation between the officer and anyone else.
“It was out of the blue and unexpected. The officer was hit in the back of the head while holding a child in his hands,” Hestrin said.
Hestrin played a portion of a low-quality Costco surveillance video, but it was grainy and hard to decipher what was happening. The footage shows French, wearing a striped shirt, being pulled away by a family member, wearing a dark-colored shirt. The two men fall to the ground. A woman is seen approaching the two men on the ground. Sanchez is barely seen in the far-left frame of the video.
The district attorney’s analysis determined 3.8 seconds elapsed between when Sanchez was knocked to the ground and when the first of a total of 10 shots were fired. The gunfire could not be seen in the video.
The officer’s attorney, David Winslow, said his client was getting a sample 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.
In August, a Riverside County Superior Court judge blocked the release of the surveillance video, which was unveiled Wednesday.
The Times requested a copy of the video from inside the store in late June, citing both California public records laws and Assembly Bill 748, which requires government agencies to produce video and audio recordings of critical incidents involving police that result in death or great bodily injury. That request was denied by the city, and The Times appealed the decision.
Judge Eric Keen wrote in a ruling July 22 that releasing the video would substantially interfere with an ongoing criminal investigation into the case. The order originally barred Corona and Los Angeles police from releasing the video for one year from the date of the shooting.