One month after an Indian family who migrated to the United States were shot by an off-duty policeman, family members are still seeking answers to the shooting, which left the husband and wife hospitalized and their young son killed. The family was earlier living in Kuwait and is being fondly remembered by many people here.
Six weeks ago, off-duty Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officer Salvador Sanchez fired at the family following an altercation at the Costco wholesale store in Corona, in Riverside County, California. The shooting left Kenneth French, 32, who is non-verbal and intellectually challenged, dead on the spot, while his parents Russel and Paula French were hospitalized from gun-shot wounds.
Officer Sanchez has been placed on administrative leave while an internal probe has been initiated into whether the use of ‘deadly force’ was in line with policies and procedures, said a statement from the LAPD.
As no new information has been made available to the grieving family, they are taking to social media to bring attention to the case, demanding answers from the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, which they alleged had been sitting on the case for over three weeks.
Excerpts from a report of the incident in the Los Angeles Times paper say: “The LAPD officer is a seven-year patrol officer in the Southwest Division. He was off-duty inside Costco with his young son. Russell and Paola were also inside the store with their adult son, who suffered from an intellectual disability. The two families came together in a food-sample line of Costco when an altercation took place.”
From then on, two vastly different accounts of the incident have emerged.
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 Kenneth. “He was shopping with his wife and 1½-year-old son 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 lawyer for the French family, Dale Galipo acknowledged that Kenneth French pushed the officer in the line, but said the exchange was not a justification for the use of deadly force. He added that before the officer fired his gun, there was a gap in time when he declared he was a police officer and Kenneth’s father stepped between the two men, Galipo said. “The shooting was excessive and completely unjustified,” Galipo reiterated.
Relatives of the French family add that Paola, who was standing between her mentally ill son and the officer, was shot in the back, followed by Russel who was shot as he screamed, “Don’t shoot. My son is sick.”
The family member also said that store employees who witnessed the incident had told him that the LAPD was in possession of a video footage of the entire event. The LAPD has so far declined to reveal the contents of the video tape saying the matter was under investigation. But the relative countered that you cannot bury evidence forever under the guise of it being ‘under investigation’.