Video: Off-duty LEO was 20 feet away during fatal Costo shooting

Surveillance video shows Kenneth French lunge at off-duty LAPD officer but details are still scarce

Richard Winton
Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — The off-duty Los Angeles police officer who fatally shot an emotionally disabled man and wounded his parents at a Corona Costco was about 20 feet from the victims when he opened fire, police said.

The new details come two days after the Riverside district attorney announced the officer would not be charged in the deadly shooting.

Officers exit the Corona Costco following a shooting inside the wholesale warehouse store on June 14.
Officers exit the Corona Costco following a shooting inside the wholesale warehouse store on June 14. (Photo/Will Lester/TNS)

Kenneth French, 32, was killed June 14 in a food-tasting line inside the warehouse store by Officer Salvador Sanchez. His parents, Russell and Paola French, were wounded in the gunfire. Sanchez’s attorneys said French knocked the officer to the ground for no reason, and Sanchez, who was holding his toddler, had no choice but to respond with lethal force.

Sanchez fired 10 times, prosecutors said. Corona police officials said he was “seated” when he opened fire.

“The exact distance is unknown, but based on video and physical evidence, the estimated gap was about 20 feet at the time of the shooting,” Corona Police Sgt. Chad Fountain said.

There were hopes that surveillance video from the store would help explain what happened. But the video — released when District Attorney Mike Hestrin announced Wednesday that no charges would be filed in the case — provided no clear-cut answers.

Hestrin played a portion of a low-quality surveillance video, but the images were grainy, and it was hard to decipher what was happening. The recording shows French, wearing a striped shirt, being pulled along by a male family member in a dark shirt. The two men become entangled and fall to the ground, and a woman is seen approaching them. Sanchez is barely visible in the far-left frame.

Prior to the confrontation between Sanchez and French, prosecutors said there was no previous interaction between the two.

“It was out of the blue and unexpected,” Hestrin said. “The officer was hit in the back of the head while holding a child in his hands.”

The district attorney’s analysis determined 3.8 seconds elapsed between when Sanchez was knocked to the ground and he began shooting.

Ira Salzman, one of Sanchez’s attorneys, said Wednesday that the grand jury decision was a vindication.

“My client was assaulted and attacked, and what he did was excusable and reasonable under the law,” Salzman said. “It is a terrible tragedy. We have two sets of parents trying to protect their child. Sal had no choice but to use deadly force to protect his young son and himself from assault.”

Paola and Russell French said Thursday that they were shocked that no charges were filed against the man who killed their son.

They questioned what evidence Hestrin presented to a grand jury this month that formed the decision not to file charges.

“Salvador Sanchez was clearly wrong, as he was not in imminent danger to fire 10 shots at an entire unarmed family,” Paola French said.

Russell French said the family is “extremely heartbroken.”

“Our family has just taken another blow, and we have lost complete faith in the U.S. justice system.”

He said Sanchez has changed his story, first saying their son struck him, causing him to lose consciousness, then saying he believed he had been shot and was under attack.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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