LOS ANGELES (CN) — An off-duty Los Angeles police officer violated department policy when he fatally shot a mentally disabled man and injured his parents at a Costco last year, the LA Board of Police Commissioners announced Wednesday.
Kenneth French, 32, was shot four times by LAPD officer Salvador Sanchez inside a crowded Costco store in the Riverside County city of Corona, California, in June 2019.
Sanchez told prosecutors the shooting was an act of self-defense after French struck him in the head while the off-duty officer was holding his infant child in the store.
French’s family members have said he lived with intellectual disabilities.
Months after the shooting, a grand jury determined criminal charges should not be filed against Sanchez and the Riverside District Attorney’s office said it would not pursue charges.
But on Wednesday, after reviewing an investigation report on the incident during a closed meeting, the commissioners unanimously adopted LA Police Chief Michel Moore’s recommendation to find the shooting violated department use-of-force policy.
Sanchez has already been stripped of his police powers.
Moore, who will now determine any further penalties for Sanchez, said the shooting was clearly out of line with department policy.
“Regardless of the outcome of this next chapter, I express my profound regret for what occurred to the French family and loved ones,” Moore said in a statement Wednesday. “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.”
“After hearing all of the evidence, including testimony from individuals who had not previously provided information to law enforcement, the jury deliberated for two weeks and returned a ‘No Bill,'” a spokesperson for the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office said.
“Because no indictment issued, the complete transcripts of these proceedings are sealed by statute and we are not at liberty to disclose additional information. By contrast, the determination by the LAPD Board of Police Commissioners involves whether or not an incident is within that department’s policy and does not involve any findings of potential criminal liability on the part of the officer.”
Kenneth French’s parents, Paola and Russell French – who survived the shooting – sustained serious injuries after coming between their son and Sanchez in an attempt to de-escalate the situation.
In a press conference in August 2019, Paola French said the family shouted at Sanchez not to shoot her son.
“I was pleading for my son and our lives, but I was still shot in the back,” she said, fighting back tears. “What threat did I pose to him?”
Dale Galipo, the French family’s attorney, did not immediately respond to a request for comment by press time.
The LAPD announced Wednesday it is investigating at least 56 incidents of misconduct by police during peaceful protests in LA demanding an end to police violence and systemic racism.
Of the 56 complaints, 28 allege excessive force by police against protesters, the department said.
“The department has assigned 40 investigators to this effort and we will look into every complaint thoroughly and hold every officer accountable for their actions,” the department said in a statement Wednesday, adding it has already stripped seven officers of field assignments.
The LAPD encourages any protesters or other LA residents who may have been victims of police misconduct or violence to file a complaint with the Internal Affairs Group at 800-339-6868, though legal advocates at street protests have encouraged victims to speak with an attorney first.