(CN) – An off-duty Los Angeles police officer who shot and killed an intellectually disabled man inside a Costco store in June will not face criminal charges, prosecutors said Wednesday.
A grand jury determined criminal charges should not be filed against the officer and the Riverside District Attorney’s office said it would not pursue charges.
“I stand by the decision of the grand jury,” District Attorney Mike Hestrin said.
The off-duty officer described the shooting – which also left the dead man’s parents critically wounded – as an act of self-defense, according to prosecutors.
Kenneth French, 32, was shot four times by LAPD officer Salvador Sanchez, who was shopping at the Costco store in the Riverside County city of Corona.
Sanchez was holding his infant child when he says he was hit over the head by Kenneth French, who was described by family members as having intellectual disabilities.
Hestrin says about four seconds passed between Sanchez being hit over the head, falling to the ground and when the first shots rang out in the frozen-food section of the Costco warehouse.
Kenneth French’s parents, Paola and Russell French, sustained serious injuries when they tried to get between their son and Sanchez. Sanchez shot Kenneth French three times in the back and once in the shoulder. The parents survived.
Hestrin said key witnesses to the shooting were uncooperative with investigators and were eventually subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury. Detectives from the Corona Police Department could not interview Kenneth French’s parents due to their serious injuries.
Surveillance footage from inside the store released publicly Wednesday shows a group of people – identified by police as the French family – can be seen falling to the floor after the shooting while panic sweeps through the store and other shoppers begin to run. Sanchez is not clearly visible in the video.
Prosecutors presented their findings to the grand jury on Sept. 9, which determined Sanchez should not face criminal charges.
In a press conference in August, 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?”
In a statement, the French family’s attorney Dale Galipo said they were disappointed and saddened by the grand jury’s findings and Hestrin’s decision to not file criminal charges.
"This highlights the unequal treatment of police officers compared to other citizens when they shoot people,” said Galipo. “I am confident that we will get justice for Kenneth and his family in the federal civil rights action that will be filed in the near future.”
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