Oklahoma City Police Shoot and Kill Deaf Man Despite Neighbors Warning Police He Couldn't Hear

Oklahoma City police shot and killed Magdiel Sanchez, 35, a deaf man, Tuesday night — despite warnings from Sanchez’s neighbors that Sanchez couldn’t hear the officer’s commands.

Police went to Sanchez’s house to investigate a reported hit-and-run involving Sanchez’s father. Witnesses reported the incident after Sanchez’s father fled the scene and returned home. Sanchez was not in the car during the incident and no one was hit or injured, Police Capt. Bo Mathews said at a press conference on Wednesday.

When police arrived at Sanchez’s house, Sanchez approached them with a metal pipe, which Sanchez’s neighbor, Julio Rayos, told The New York Times, Sanchez used to communicate as well as protect himself from stray dogs when he walked at night. Another neighbor told The Associated Press that Sanchez is developmentally delayed and could not speak.

Police told Sanchez to put the pipe down; however, Sanchez did not obey as he could not hear their commands. Multiple neighbors shouted at the police, warning them Sanchez could not hear, including Rayos’ 12-year-old daughter, who yelled, “Don’t kill him, he’s deaf.”

Sanchez was shot multiple times by one police officer and tasered by another. He was pronounced dead by medical units in front of his home. The officer who shot him has since been placed on paid administrative leave.

Sanchez’s death highlights a recurring problem when it comes how police interact with people with disabilities. According to The Ruderman Family Foundation, one-third to one-half of people killed by police have some kind of disability.

Officers are not typically taught how to respond to incidents involving people with disabilities, increasing the likelihood of a fatal incident. While independent police training programs and city-specific initiatives — like Portland police’s registry for people with “additional needs” — have been launched, more is needed nationwide to prevent deaths like Sanchez’s from happening.

Header image by Prathaan via Thinkstock.

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