Cop Who Killed Disabled Man at Costco Faces Job Review
What happened: Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Chief Michael Moore concluded that officer Salvador Sanchez violated department policy in the off-duty shooting of Kenneth French, a disabled man, at a California Costco in June 2019.
- According to his family, 32-year-old French was largely nonverbal and struggled with his mental health
- For unknown reasons, French hit Sanchez in the head at Costco, knocking Sanchez to the ground while holding his young child
- Sanchez reacted by pulling out his gun and shooting approximately 10 times in the crowded store, killing French and critically injuring his parents, Russell and Paola
- Though Sanchez told investigators he thought French shot him and had a gun, his account didn’t match with eyewitnesses or the results of an investigation
- Moore said Sanchez should have evaluated the situation or spoken with French before firing, concluding his actions violated department policy
The decisions and actions of this officer cannot be justified and are inconsistent with the Department’s core values, training and expectations of every member of this organization. — LAPD Chief Michel Moore
The Backstory: The news of Moore’s decision comes months after a grand jury declined to bring criminal charges against Sanchez.
- After learning Sanchez would not be charged for French’s death, the Frenchs’ lawyer, Dale K. Galipo, said “the shooting was excessive and completely unjustified”
- Sanchez’s attorney said the officer feared for his life and the safety of his child and acted in self-defense
The Frontlines: Police violence against people with disabilities is not uncommon.
- A 2016 Ruderman Family Foundation report found about 50% of people killed by police officers had a disability
- Those in prison are four times more likely to have a disability than the general population, and about 20% of the prison population lives with a mental illness
- People with disabilities may not be able to comply with police directions, and cops typically don’t have sufficient training to respond to people with disabilities, which puts lives at risk
A Mighty Voice: Our contributor, Carissa Rupp, explained the importance of talking about disability in the context of police violence. “There is a community of individuals, many who are nonverbal, that have a higher risk of being shot and killed by law enforcement. If things don’t change, my daughter could be one of them. It’s time we stop allowing others to politicize the issues, and instead demand an open and honest dialogue.” You can submit your first person story, too.
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Other things to know: To learn more about police violence toward people with disabilities, including how you can take action, check out the following resources:
- ASAN: What is Police Violence?
- The Arc: Criminal Justice
- Black Lives Matter and Disability
- We Can’t Breathe: The Deaf & Disabled Margin of Police Brutality Project
What’s next: Officer Sanchez has been stripped of his police powers and has been working from home. Moore said the Police Commission will now decide if Sanchez will keep his job on the force in any capacity. Russell and Paola French are also suing Los Angeles for Sanchez’s actions.
Header image via ev/Unsplash