Paul J. Young
City News Service
CORONA (CNS) – The family of a 32-year-old developmentally disabled man killed during a confrontation with an off-duty Los Angeles police officer inside a Corona Costco will vent their feelings today about a grand jury’s refusal to indict the lawman and Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin’s decision to accept the jury’s findings, tabling any potential
The parents of Kenneth French, along with his brother and their attorney, Dale Galipo, are slated to hold a news briefing at the Ayres Suites this afternoon.
When Galipo learned Wednesday that a 19-member grand jury had determined there was no reason to indict Officer Salvador Sanchez for French’s death on June 14, the lawyer released a statement saying the outcome “highlights the unequal treatment of police officers compared to other citizens when they shoot people.”
“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,” he said.
Hestrin said Wednesday that he respected the grand jury’s determination, emphasizing that “we had to put our passions and emotions aside and marry the facts with the law. We don’t pay attention to public outcries or social media rants.”
According to Hestrin, evidence collected from the shooting at the Costco on North McKinley Street was presented to the grand jury on Sept. 9, and they announced Tuesday that no indictment would be handed down.
Hestrin said he did not know how jurors voted. There must be at least 12 affirmative votes for an indictment. The veteran prosecutor said he will abide by the panel’s decision and not independently file a criminal complaint against Sanchez.
“I would file charges if I thought there was a problem with the process,” he said. “All the evidence we had was presented to the grand jury. I stand by their decision.”
Galipo, who was retained by Russell and Paola French not long after their son was killed, has repeatedly stated his belief that the Corona Police Department and the D.A.’s office were treating Sanchez deferentially because he’s a law enforcement officer, and if anyone other than an off-duty policeman had done the shooting, that person would have been charged at the outset.
Hestrin denied Sanchez was favored with “special treatment.”
“This is viewed as an officer-involved shooting,” he said. “Police officers have to respond (to an attack) as if they’re on duty.”
Russell and Paola French, along with Galipo, spoke to the media on Aug. 26, urging the D.A.’s office to come to a decision. Russell French told reporters he “begged (Sanchez) not to shoot,” telling him, “our son is sick.”
Galipo said the parents and son were moving away from the off-duty cop when he opened fire. According to Corona police Chief George Johnstone, Kenneth French was shot once in the shoulder and twice in the back. Paola French was shot in the back, and her husband was shot in the abdomen, resulting in the loss of a kidney.
According to Galipo, the trio had been shopping for a half-hour when they stopped at a food sample booth in the store to nibble on sausages. Why Kenneth French turned physical with Sanchez, shoving him to the floor while the off-duty officer held his 18-month-old son, is unclear, Galipo acknowledged.
He said the decedent was a diagnosed schizophrenic and nonverbal, with no history of aggression.
Sanchez’s attorney, David Winslow, has insisted his client responded appropriately.
Hestrin played a security surveillance videotape from the Costco that partially captured the deadly 7:45 p.m. confrontation. The clips mainly revealed the tail-end of the encounter between French and Sanchez, with the former appearing to be the aggressor, and Sanchez falling somewhere out of frame. Russell French is clearly visible, standing in front of his son to turn him back, at which point both men are struck by gunfire and collapse to the floor of the store.
Johnstone said 10 shots were fired by the off-duty lawman.
Sanchez, an LAPD patrolman for seven years, most recently assigned to the Southwest Division, is on paid administrative leave.
Paul J. Young