LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A former Los Angeles Police Department officer who opened fire during an altercation inside a Corona Costco store in 2019, killing a 32-year-old man and injuring his parents, was arrested Monday on charges of voluntary manslaughter and assault with a semiautomatic firearm.
Salvador Sanchez was arrested in Riverside County, according to the state Attorney General's Office, which is handling the case. Sanchez had initially avoided prosecution, with a Riverside County grand jury declining three months after the shooting to indict him. Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin announced at the time he would abide by the grand jury's decision and not pursue a case.
But the state Attorney General's Office agreed to review the shooting, leading to Monday's arrest.
"Where there's reason to believe a crime has been committed, we will seek justice," Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement. "That's exactly what these charges are about: pursuing justice after an independent and thorough review of the evidence and the law. Ultimately, any loss of life is a tragedy and being licensed to carry a gun doesn't mean you're not accountable for how you use it. No matter who you are, nobody is above the law."
The charges stem from the shooting that occurred June 14, 2019, inside the Costco store at 480 N. McKinley St., killing Kenneth French, who was described by his family as non-verbal and intellectually disabled. French's parents, Russell and Paola, were both wounded in the shooting.
Corona police said the then-off-duty officer was shopping at Costco with his family, holding his child in his arms, when, "without provocation, a male unknown to the officer's family assaulted the officer."
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. The French family and their attorney, Dale Galipo, have conceded that Kenneth French shoved Sanchez to the ground for unknown reasons.
According to the officer's attorney, David Winslow, Sanchez briefly lost consciousness, and when he awoke, he was on the ground and his 18-month- old son was next to him screaming. Winslow said the officer "had no choice but to use deadly force."
The French family has clamed 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.
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.
The Los Angeles Police Commission later determined that Sanchez acted outside department policy by drawing his weapon and using deadly force. LAPD Chief Michel Moore's report on the incident stated the officer felt as if he'd been "shot" after being struck by French. When Sanchez looked back at French, the officer said it appeared French may have been holding a firearm, although one was not recovered in French's possession.
French's parents sued the city of Los Angeles and the officer. The Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges battery, negligence, civil rights violations and both intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Galipo, the French family attorney, called the shooting "a complete overreaction on behalf of this police officer."