The parents of a 32-year-old developmentally disabled man who was fatally shot by an off-duty police officer inside the Costco store in Corona sued the city of Los Angeles and the officer Wednesday.
The Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit, filed by Russell and Paola French, the father and mother of Kenneth French, alleges battery, negligence, civil rights violations and both intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The complaint seeks unspecified damages.
“If it was anyone but a police officer who went into a Costco and fired 10 shots (and killed somebody), they would’ve been arrested and charged with murder,” said Dale Galipo, an attorney for the French family.
Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for the City Attorney’s Office, said his office will review the complaint, but he had no further comment.
Officer Salvador Sanchez is named as a co-defendant in the suit, which states that the gun he used to shoot French was issued to him by the Los Angeles Police Department.
“If Salvador Sanchez were not a police officer, then he would not have been authorized to carry a concealed weapon in his waistband inside of the Costco,” according to the complaint.
In addition, Sanchez’s training in the use of deadly force was “totally inadequate and inappropriate,” the suit alleges.
Kevin French, the decedent’s younger brother, said Kenneth was “just a loving, caring human being who never hurt anyone.”
Corona police said Kenneth French attacked Sanchez without provocation inside the store on June 14, and that Sanchez was holding his year-old son at the time.
The Frenches were shopping when they approached a food-sample table with sausages. Sanchez was also at the sample table, holding his son, officials said.
Galipo and the French family have conceded that Kenneth French shoved Sanchez to the ground for unknown reasons. Sanchez responded by announcing that he was a police officer, pulling out a gun and opening fire.
Sanchez’s attorney has insisted that his client briefly lost consciousness after being attacked by Kenneth French and “had no choice but to use deadly force.”
The French family says they pleaded with Sanchez not to shoot, telling the officer that their son, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was largely non-verbal, had mental health issues. They also claim they were backing away from Sanchez when the shooting occurred.
Russell and Paola French were wounded by the gunfire. Corona police said earlier that Kenneth French was shot once in the shoulder and three times in the back, while Paola French was shot in the back and her husband was shot in the abdomen, resulting in the loss of a kidney.
According to the lawsuit, Sanchez identified himself as a police officer, but in a way that deterred bystanders in the store from rendering aid to the couple and their son, all of whom were bleeding profusely.
“Salvador Sanchez asserted authority over the area, preventing witnesses from providing care to plaintiffs and decedent, and Salvador Sanchez did not attempt to render aid to plaintiffs and decedent himself,” the suit states.
Corona police did not detain Sanchez after he identified himself as a police officer, the suit states.
“In other words, if any person who was not a member of law enforcement had shot three visibly unarmed people inside of a crowded Costco with a concealed weapon he or she were carrying, there is no doubt that person would have been immediately arrested, taken to jail and criminally charged,” the suit states.
Sanchez also was allowed to see the store’s surveillance footage of the shooting before being interviewed by law enforcement, the suit states.
Sanchez has been with the LAPD for seven years.
Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin announced in September that Sanchez would not be charged with a crime. He said the case was presented to a county grand jury, which declined to indict the officer.
Although the lawsuit does not seek a specified damages amount, Galipo said “it will be a large number.”
The attorney also told reporters he would ask a judge to unseal the grand jury transcripts.
“I’m very confident we will prevail — that the officer used excessive force,” Galipo said. “We don’t want to see this happen to someone else.”