Oklahoma Police Shoot to Death a Deaf Latino Man

OKLAHOMA CITY (CN) – Oklahoma City police admitted Wednesday that a Hispanic man who was shot to death in front of his home was deaf and could not understand their commands to drop a metal pipe.

Magdiel Sanchez, 35, was shot by one officer with a Taser and by another officer with a gun Tuesday night, police Capt. Bo Mathews told reporters. He acknowledged that neighbors had yelled at police that Sanchez could not hear before he was killed.

“In those very volatile situations where you have a weapon out, you can get what they call tunnel vision, where you can really lock in to just the person that has a weapon that would be the threat against you,” Matthews said at a news conference. “I do not know exactly what the officers were thinking at that point.”

The officer who fired the gun, Sgt. Chris Barnes, is on administrative leave pending investigation. He is an eight-year veteran of the force.

Matthews said an officer was investigating a reported hit-and-run collision at 8:15 p.m. Tuesday and a witness gave the address where the officer found Sanchez on the porch. He said the metal pipe Sanchez held was 2 feet long and had a leather loop on one end for wrapping around a wrist.

Matthews said the officer called for backup and Barnes arrived when Sanchez left the porch to approach the officers. They opened fire at the same time when Sanchez was about 15 feet away.

Matthews said neither officer had a body camera on. He does not know why Barnes used his gun instead of a Taser. He said Sanchez’s father was the suspected driver in the hit-and-run and confirmed to officers that his son was deaf. Sanchez was not in the car and has no known criminal history, Matthews said.

Julio Rayos, Sanchez’s neighbor, told The Oklahoman newspaper that Sanchez was developmentally disabled and did not speak, communicating through hand movements. Rayos speculated that Sanchez became frustrated trying to tell the officers what was going on.

“The guy does movements,” Rayos said. “He don’t speak, he don’t hear, mainly it is hand movements. That’s how he communicates. I believe he was frustrated trying to tell them what was going on.”

Sanchez’s death comes four months after a police officer in Tulsa was acquitted of first-degree manslaughter for shooting an unarmed black motorist who had his hands up and was walking away from her. Betty Shelby was found not guilty of shooting Terence Crutcher, but the jury said she was not “blameless” in his death and questioned whether she had “other options available” to subdue him, rather than kill him.

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