Former LAPD officer Salvador Sanchez was arrested today for the 2019 killing of Kenneth French at a Costco in Corona, California. French's elderly parents were also shot, but survived. Sanchez was fired in July of last year after the city's civilian Police Commission concluded that his actions were outside of their policy and LAPD Chief Michael Moore said that Sanchez's actions "cannot be justified and are inconsistent with the Departments core values, training and expectations of every member of this organization." Today he was charged with seven felony counts for voluntary manslaughter, assault with a semi-automatic weapon (2 counts), and inflicting great bodily injury with a firearm during the commission of a felony (4 counts).
The victim in this case has been described as a non-verbal developmentally disabled person. He was shopping with his elderly parents at Costco when he bumped into Sanchez. Sanchez was carrying his one year old son at the time. Sanchez's attorney issued the following statement in defense of his client:
"Sal Sanchez was holding his baby when he was violently attacked and knocked to the ground along with his baby. He was also knocked unconscious momentarily. At the time of the incident, he believed he was protecting himself and his baby from being killed. The Riverside grand Jury heard all the evidence in this matter and concluded there was no basis for any criminal issues, " - David Winslow
Winslow fails to explain why his client told responding officers and LAPD investigators that French had a gun. Sanchez claimed that he thought he had been shot when he fell to the ground and dropped his. He also said he thought French was pointing a gun at him when he opened fire. The only gun found at the scene belonged to Officer Sanchez. In body camera footage obtained by the media, Sanchez can be heard telling police:
"I thought I got shot, I still feel pain in the side of my head, I see a blast and I feel my head get knocked off, and I fell to the ground and dropped my son. When I dropped my son I looked over and the guy like hunkers down... I believed he was still armed and so I shot." - Salvador Sanchez (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJXyuQwPZB8)
No evidence was discovered to support Sanchez's claims. Surveillance footage appeared to show an altercation between Sanchez and French (see video below). The footage was really grainy and didn't show much, but it show what looked like some mutual combat preceded the shooting, so it wasn't like French just suddenly knocked Sanchez and his infant to the ground before shots were fired like Sanchez said. We think that French probably bumped into Sanchez and knocked his son to the ground in the process. That would explain the mutual combat seen on video as the result of a rightfully pissed off father trying to keep someone away from his son. He had every right to keep a stranger away from his kid, but there is such a thing as overkill. There was no justification for a trained police officer perfectly capable of fending for himself to open fire.
This prosecution is possible thanks to a new law that took effect on July 1st which requires the state's attorney general's office to investigate all police shootings. The Riverside County District Attorney's Office refused to prosecute Sanchez in 2019 after they say a grand jury refused to indict him. The problem with grand jury proceedings such as those is that prosecutors are reluctant to make a good faith effort to indict fellow members of the law enforcement community. The new law granted the attorney general new powers to enforce the state constitution in counties where the law in not being adequately enforced.