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Home / News / Crime / Ex-LAPD officer will not be retried in fatal Costco shooting

Ex-LAPD officer will not be retried in fatal Costco shooting

by City News Service
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By Kristy Ramirez

A former Los Angeles police officer suspected of fatally shooting a developmentally disabled man and critically wounding the victim’s parents at the Corona Costco won’t be retried, officials said Tuesday.

Following a hearing Tuesday at the Larson Justice Center in Indio, all charges were dismissed and allegations stricken against Salvador Alejandro Sanchez, 33, of Corona, according to court records.

“The Department of Justice stands by the decision to charge and prosecute this case, however, after considering a variety of factors, including, but not limited to, the input of the surviving victims and feedback from the trial jury, the department has decided not to retry the case,” the attorney general’s press office said.

Sanchez was charged with one felony count of voluntary manslaughter and two counts of assault with a semiautomatic firearm. He additionally faced sentence-enhancing allegations of using a firearm and causing great bodily injury.

Following a three-week trial and then a three-week break during deliberations, jurors were unable to reach a verdict Jan. 18 and a mistrial was declared. A trial-readiness conference was then scheduled for Tuesday.

The charges stem from a shooting that occurred on the evening of June 14, 2019, inside the Costco at 480 N. McKinley St., where 32-year-old Kenneth French was killed and his parents, Russell and Paola French of Corona, were wounded.

Sanchez, who was an off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer at the time of the shooting, is free on a $155,000 bond.

The French family was shopping when they stopped at a food sample table, where the defendant was also standing holding his son. For unknown reasons, Kenneth French punched the defendant in the back of the head and stepped back from him, prosecutors said.

“Within seconds, the defendant pulled out a gun and shot Kenneth four times in the back, killing him,” Deputy Attorney General Michael Murphy said. “The defendant also shot Kenneth’s mother and Kenneth’s father as they were trying to protect their son from being shot.”

But Sanchez’s attorney, Michael Schwartz, told jurors that Sanchez was unexpectedly punched in the back of the head so hard that he felt as though he was shot, and acted in self-defense.

Schwartz said Sanchez only had a few seconds to react after being injured because he feared the possibility of the most vulnerable person in the area, his 20-month-old son, also being injured. The attorney contended that if his client had taken time to confirm whether or not Kenneth French had a gun and he did end up having one, he would have been dead by the time he found out.

Sanchez had no intention of shooting the victim dead, just until he was down and knew the threat was over, Schwartz said, adding that his client still had three bullets that weren’t fired.

Murphy rebutted the argument by telling jurors that it was undisputed Kenneth French punched the defendant and that he shouldn’t have done that, but the defendant also drew his gun and shot 10 rounds when no injury or bruises ever appeared on the defendant, whose fear of hypothetical scenarios like the threat to his son was not enough to justify the deadly shooting because no reasonable person would have done what he did, Murphy said.

“This did not need to happen for self-protection or to defend his son, and it shouldn’t have happened,” Murphy said. “The defendant needed only to take a few moments to check himself to see if he had a gunshot wound and realize that he did not.”

Murphy said Sanchez chose to take a gun loaded with 13 bullets into the store and that the victim’s parents pleaded with the defendant to not shoot their son because he was sick, but Sanchez ignored their pleas, aimed his gun at them and pulled the trigger. Paola French was shot first, once in the stomach, her husband was hit once on his side and their son was shot four times in the back.

Kenneth French was taken out of the store in a body bag and his parents were taken for emergency treatment while the defendant was seen in an officer’s body-worn camera video being escorted out without assistance, Murphy added.

The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office in September 2019 took the matter to a 19-member county grand jury, and the panel declined to indict Sanchez, culminating in the California Department of Justice ultimately filing charges.

In the summer of 2020, the Los Angeles Police Commission determined that the Costco shooting was an unjustifiable use of force, and Sanchez was fired.

The French family filed a lawsuit against the department, the city of Los Angeles and Sanchez at the end of 2019, alleging negligence and civil rights violations. A Los Angeles jury in November 2021 ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, awarding them $17 million.

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