Police

No Charges for Off-Duty Cop Who Killed Man in a California Costco

Would that outcome have been the same for those of us who aren't in law enforcement?

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An off-duty Los Angeles police officer who shot and killed an unarmed, apparently developmentally disabled man in a confrontation in a Costco in June will not face criminal charges for his actions.

A grand jury declined to indict Salvador Sanchez for shooting and killing David French, 32, after the two of them had a brief and vague fight in a Costco in Corona, California.

French was apparently the aggressor, but he was unarmed. According to multiple accounts of the incident, French, with no provocation, struck Sanchez on the back of the head while they were waiting in line at a food sample station. Sanchez says he was holding his infant son in his arms when he was knocked down suddenly and briefly knocked out. His lawyer, David Winslow, said that when Sanchez reawakened, he believed he was "fighting for his life."

Sanchez fired 10 shots, killing French and critically injuring French's parents.

After the encounter, French's family came forward to explain that French was nonverbal, intellectually disabled, and diagnosed with schizophrenia. Family members said French had no history of violence but had recently been prescribed a new medication.

A security camera in Costco captured part of the encounter, but a court order barred its release until a grand jury decided against an indictment on Wednesday. Unfortunately, the video, which can be viewed here, is not terribly illuminating. It does not show Sanchez shooting French, but it does show French and a family member falling—likely his father, who said he attempted to intervene between his son and Sanchez—to the floor as Sanchez, off-screen to the left, shoot at them.

It is worth noting that the video appears to show the Frenches as moving away from Sanchez and not attempting to move aggressively toward him. And Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin has said that less than four seconds elapsed between the point where French knocked Sanchez down and Sanchez got up and began shooting. Today, the Los Angeles Times reports that Sanchez was 20 feet away from the men when he began shooting, while still sitting on the floor after being knocked down.

Hestrin could decide to prosecute Sanchez even without the grand jury indictment. But he does not intend to, because 12 of the 19 members of the grand jury said they didn't see enough evidence to justify charges.

Meanwhile, the LAPD is doing its own administration investigation to determine whether Sanchez's decisions were appropriate under department policy.

Everybody involved in the shooting sees this as a tragedy, and nobody is arguing that French deserved to be shot and killed. The question is whether Sanchez's use of lethal force was justified given the situation.

Would this response be the same if Sanchez were not a police officer? California political leaders are quick to implement tight gun controls and to give officials the power to seize citizens' weapons. It's hard to fathom a Californian who is not part of law enforcement getting to shoot an unarmed man in a massive store while people ran away screaming without so much as a slap on the wrist.

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  1. Of course anyone else would have been charged and probably convicted for murder etc. But that won’t stop cop-worshiping Americans from justifying this.

    1. Get off your knees, Oppresso–I do not worship anyone, I SUPPORT law enforcement as most Americans still do, in spite of the best efforts of ignorant fools. This situation is different from most (oblivious to you) and this cop should be tried, convicted and sentenced.

      1. So what are you so mad about? You agree with me that this cop should be tried. And how am I on my knees?

  2. I would bet a good number of the murders on any given Chicago weekend involve fights that escalate into gunfire. Some people only see the surface of things and so they’re mesmerized by things like costumes and titles and blind to everything else.

    1. What makes you think the murders on any given Chicago weekend ever result in charges against anyone?

      1. At this point I’m surprised they don’t take the Great Britain approach of “Well if we never charge someone with murder we don’t have to call it murder at all, look at our super low murder rate!”

        1. They already do something like that to keep their thumb on the scale of crime statistics by race. If no one is ever charged for a crime, then the race of the perpetrator never goes into the crime stats. So, the Black-on-Black murder rate, already horrendous in current statistics, is undoubtedly much worse than the numbers show because of the low clearance rate of murders in high-crime neighborhoods.

  3. I often don’t side with the police on these things, but if I’m standing in line at a store holding an infant child and someone comes up behind me and hits me in the back of the head and knocks me down, I’d hope the grand jury would treat me the same. The child could have been injured or killed in the fall.

    There’s no justification for a violent ambush like that. I’d want the same result if a police officer had ambushed a civilian the same way.

    Too bad for violent, insane individuals.

    1. But he was in a store full of people and his actions endangered a lot of people that didn’t attack him.

      1. Assault with a deadly weapon charges and/or reckless endangerment; I could see charging him with for that portion.

        What is the case law on shooting innocent people when legally defending oneself?

        1. Were his parents really innocent if they weren’t keeping a tight enough reign on him to let this happen?

        2. As far as I know, the states are all the same on this one: if you shoot somebody that didn’t deserve it in the process of shooting someone that arguably might have, you’re guilty of (at the least) armed battery, and either negligent homicide or manslaughter if they die, depending on the jurisdiction.

          Unless of course, you’re a police officer, at which point all of your actions are presumed to be both necessary and just, and those kids and their grandmother got what was coming to them.

          1. I agree. Unfortunately law enforcement will always be above the law!

          2. I am no lawyer so I could be totally wrong on this but I don’t think you have it right. If you shoot somebody in self defense and an innocent bystander is also injured/killed then the guilt is on the guy you were defending yourself against.

            I am happy to be corrected on this if somebody can post an actual law on the matter.

      2. That’s worth considering, but if someone attacks you from behind when you’re holding a baby, do you really stop to think about that, or do you protect yourself and the child?

        I don’t think grand juries should be second guessing the instantaneous reaction of a guy who is surprise-attacked while he’s holding a baby. It’s the attacker’s fault.

        1. The unarmed retarded man is responsible for a trained cop emptying a 10 round magazine at a store full of people. Sounds about right.

          1. What does “unarmed” have to do with it? It’s an ambush from behind with a knock-down blow to the head while the attack victim was holding a baby.

            You don’t need to be armed in that situation.

            1. Trayvon Martin was “unarmed” as he was bashing Zimmerman’s head against the curb.

              1. And this guy was doing nothing like that when he was shot

                1. So the cop just randomly pulled his gun out and decided to start shooting for no reason?

                  1. The man was 20 feet away in a store full of people when he fired so yes, apparently.

          2. The jury found that only 3.8 seconds elapsed from the time he was knocked down until he started firing.

            I’m completely confused as to why the family just walked away from the baby and the man their son had just assaulted. It’s a VERY weird story. I would think that a normal reaction would be to run to the person to help them, with instant apologies. Their reaction was extremely weird and certainly contributed to the situation.

    2. Pretty much my feelings on it.

    3. You’re right. If someone hit me and then ran away, I would empty a magazine at the store and hit 2 other people not involved.

      He shot that dude 4 times in the back.

      1. Good. Surprise attack someone who is holding a baby, get shot during a panicked defense attempt.

      2. “”He shot that dude 4 times in the back.””

        And if you did that, it would be evidence that you were no longer in danger because the person was fleeing. Prison for you.

        Cops, well, they are just following procedure. There is a lot of case law to support that.

        Procedure > Your rights.

        1. You wouldn’t be going to prison if I were on your jury.

          1. not even for shooting the unarmed fleeing attackers’ unarmed and fleeing parents?

            1. Collateral damage. Life is unfair. They should have armed themselves.

              1. Insane people should surprise-attack guys waiting in line at a Costco.

          2. If you or I did it there wouldn’t be a grand jury that failed to indict.

    4. So you think the proper response to simple assault is immediate escalation to lethal force without consideration of the threat situation or the possible consequences to bystanders. Do I have that right?

      Try that defense as a non-cop and see how far it gets you. My guess is that you’ll at least be charged and tried on a variety of charges up to and including murder. You might escape some of the charges by claiming self-defense – but given that the trigger was pulled after the assailant was already retreating, probably not.

      1. That’s a normal human response.

        I don’t think we should expect some sort of super-human decision making from victims of surprise attacks who are protecting themselves and their baby.

        1. A. No, that’s not a normal human response. Fighting back would be normal. Immediately escalating to lethal force is a gross over-reaction.

          B. Yes, I actually do expect police who are explicitly trained in threat assessment, adrenaline control and responses to unexpected situations to make better-than-average decisions in such situations. Emptying your magazine inside a store does not qualify.

          1. I don’t consider it much of an escalation. A surprise knock-down attack from behind is already potentially deadly. He could easily have fallen on and killed the baby.

            1. Baloney. If you think that kind of overreaction is appropriate, you shouldn’t be allowed out without supervision. And you definitely should never be allowed custody of a baby.

              1. Why are you so desperate to make the world safe for violent insane people who commit surprise attacks in a Costco? We don’t need to go out of our way to protect people like that in that situation.

                It’s unjust to try to use government to harm a victim of an attack who was protecting himself and his child. Anyone in that situation might have panicked and done the same thing.

                When the police create a situation, they should be held accountable for what they do. This time an insane surprise-attacker created the situation. The next few seconds of panicked self defense are the attacker’s fault. If not, then you don’t believe in a right to self defense.

                1. How do you not consider a single punch, to the back of the head or not, to fail the escalation description when compared to ten rounds fired at the single incident aggressor?

                  1. Because it was hard enough to knock him to the ground, and because he was holding a baby.

                    If you punched a baby, would that be deadly force? How about if you intentionally pushed an adult over so he fell and crushed a baby?

                    It’s not awesome that he opened fire and hit the parents. It is self defense though. Someone defending himself from a surprise attack shouldn’t have to worry about being second guessed for “escalation”. You surprise-attack someone, you invite an unlimited defense.

            2. “He could have easily fallen on and killed the baby.” Yes. But he didn’t. The issue here is what is appropriate after that. When he was 20 feet away and not being attacked, assuming the facts as presented.

              1. Panicked attack victims don’t do what they think will be called “appropriate” later. They defend themselves and their child.

                1. Defense and retaliation aren’t the same thing.

                  1. They look exactly the same. You can’t separate on from the other in 1 second increments.

                    1. That’s absurd.

                2. Cops that panic and open fire shouldn’t be cops any more.

                  1. If it’s on duty, I agree. Cops on duty are responsible for what they do when they enter into a situation. Do a responsible job and keep people safe or don’t be a police officer.

                    Off duty, surprised-attacked from behind, no. The attacker is responsible.

                    1. The attacker is responsible for the attack. He is not responsible for a moron spraying retaliatory gunfire in his general direction that injures innocent people. People who discharge firearms in that manner should go to prison. They absolutely should not be cops.

            3. Then you’re welcome to try it yourself, and I hope you have a long-term plan for entertainment while your in prison for doing so.

              You’re too stupid to be trusted with a lethal weapon, because you clearly fail to comprehend when it is acceptable to use one.

        2. Let’s keep in mind that, according to the article, the cop says he was in line and he was struck from behind and knocked out. He regained consciousness and immediately drew his weapon and started firing at someone standing 20 feet away? The cop’s story doesn’t hold water. It sounds more like the cop was insanely infuriated by the blind-side attack and responded in this reckless and egregious manner. The cop should be charged and should serve some time.

          1. The cop was knocked out for about a second and woke up to the guy who attacked him still acting bizarrely. The guy’s parents were acting so weirdly in the video that I don’t buy for an instant that it’s the first time that he ever attacked anyone out of the blue.

  4. Sanchez fired 10 shots, killing French and critically injuring French’s parents.

    Panic fire: the world is your backstop.

    1. Surprise attacking someone holding a baby will tend to lead to a panicked defense attempt. I’d blame the attacker.

      If the attacker were police instead of the defender, I’d blame the attacker in that situation too.

      1. I’d perhaps agree if the threat wasn’t 20 feet away. Distance gives you time and options, which this supposedly trained shooter did not take advantage of.

        All of that is irrelevant, of course, as I was talking about his striking more-or-less random targets. The right to defend yourself doesn’t include taking down everyone in your field of vision.

        1. Someone surprise-attacked should have the right to defend himself and his baby. The right of self defense isn’t contingent on making sure nothing else could possibly go wrong in the process.

          1. Because nothing says defending yourself like shooting someone 20 feet away that’s unarmed as well as two bystanders.

            1. Shit happens when you surprise-attack someone holding a baby.

              1. And if innocent people happen to be standing near you when the person you attacked retaliates, well, life is unfair. They should have armed themselves.

            2. They threw themselves between their son and the cop. They weren’t just bystanders. They were in-the-way-standers.

          2. So you are pro-negligent self-defense, is that right? You sound fucking nuts.

            1. I’m pro self defense. I’m against second guessing everything someone does when he’s obviously defending himself and his baby.

              1. Ben, you mention the baby in every single comment.
                Are you part of “#Baby Lives Matter?” WTF!
                The baby is irrelevant and the cop was so concerned about the welfare of his baby that he immediately fired at people 20 feet away with their back to him instead of tending and assessing the welfare of the baby.

                This case reminds of the Florida man recently convicted for killing the boyfriend of the woman he was chastising for parking in a handicapped spot? Guess the downed Michael Drejka should have had a baby in his arms in order to get exonerated. And his attacker was a more imminent threat because he was a few feet away and facing him when he pulled out his gun.

                Looks like French instinctively knew Sanchez to be a murderous POS and struck preemptively. French may have saved someone’s life.

                1. We humans protect our babies. What do your people do?

                  1. No, animals protect their babies with no regard to unintended consequences. My people expect more of human beings. And even more of human beings specifically trained in armed defense in stressful situations.

                    1. It’s already hard enough to get the police held to any standard. Insisting on a super-human standard in cases like this is counterproductive.

                    2. Not engaging in panic fire is hardly a “super-human” standard.

                    3. Engaging in revenge fire, even less so.

                    4. What’s the point of holding him to that standard then? Do we need to jail people for defending themselves? Why? So they learn the right thing to do when surprise-attacked at a store? Because enforcing that lesson is import to society.

                2. The baby is not irrelevant at all. The baby is uniquely vulnerable. The man’s attack carried the heavy potential of murderous intent because the cop was carrying the baby. The baby is a strong factor in how a rational person would evaluate the attack.

      2. after they’ve backed away and are clearly not armed, it’s just a revenge killing.

        1. Revenge implies cold blood and calculation. Revenge usually occurs long after the act that sparked the revenge.

          Still the cop over reacted and used maximum force (10 rounds in a crowded store) with minimum judgement (shots at people 20ft away and moving away).

  5. Would this response be the same if Sanchez were not a police officer?

    The Civilian test is the only test that matters. Sanchez would be facing manslaughter charges at minimum.

    1. ???????????? This

  6. “The question is whether Sanchez’s use of lethal force was justified given the situation.” I have a better question: Would anyone still be asking that if this article had included the fact that Sanchez shot the parents, too? And that all three of his victims were shot in the back? That’s not “a tragedy.” That’s “a deliberate.” No matter how that’s parsed (murder or manslaughter), Sanchez should be held as accountable as any other citizen who pulled out a gun in a crowded store and started blasting at people who had their backs to him.

    According to the cop’s shyster, the whole thing unfolded over four seconds, and for part of those four seconds the cop was allegedly unconscious: hit, knocked down, knocked out, recovers, puts baby down, pulls gun, and shoots three people in the back. All in four seconds. Either the timeline is all wrong or the cop’s lying about being knocked unconscious. The well-established track record of cops’ veracity says he’s lying.

    1. Actually, the article does say that Sanchez shot the parents. It’s right there in paragraph 4. It doesn’t explicitly mention that they were shot in the back but it does say in paragraph 6 that they were all retreating.

      Other than those nitpicks, I can’t disagree with anything else you wrote. I’ll go further and guess that Sanchez is a graduate of the “Warrior Mindset” police course. The militarization of our police force is an evil that needs to be stopped.

      1. I seem to recall (different article) that mom was shot in the stomach – but definitely read dad was shot in the back.

    2. The parents threw themselves into the line of fire.

      The parents’ reaction was so extremely bizarre that it throws the whole thing off to me. Your son assaults someone holding a baby, knocking him to the ground, and you casually stroll away? No. You shout, “Oh my god! I’m so sorry! Are you okay?” and you run up to help the hurt man. The fact that they didn’t react the way a normal person would indicates to me that this wasn’t unusual at all. If they had acted in a normal way, the cop NEVER would have thought he was still in danger. It was the insanity of the parents’ reaction combined with the brutality of the attack that caused him to evaluate it differently.

      1. The piece of shit shot 3 people who were 20 feet away from him and NOT advancing towards him.

        What the fuck do you think he’d have done if they HAD been moving in his direction?


  7. Family members said French had no history of violence but had recently been prescribed a new medication.

    Sounds like French had something in common with just about every school shooter ever.

  8. Would that outcome have been the same for those of us who aren’t in law enforcement?

    Absolutely not.

  9. “Sanchez was 20 feet away from the men when he began shooting,”

    FRY HIM!!

  10. you would think the dead body and the bullet riddled bodies of the dead guy’s parents, all 3 unarmed, would be enough evidence to take it to court.

  11. Being a cop has nothing to do with anything in this case. French DESERVED to be shot for what he did IRREGARDLESS of whether Sanchez was currently in danger or not. The fact that his parents were hit in the crossfire doesn’t bother me in the least. They birthed the attacker and they got in the way of the defense and/or retribution. Don’t confuse the law with morality. It was moral to shoot the attacker. Whether or not it was legal is simply a question of how arbitrary laws, on any given day, are interpreted by humans with random logic.

    Who’s to say how a random citizen would fare in this case compared to how Sanchez did. Either way, both would be morally justified in their actions.

    1. I’m not excusing the initial attack, but that’s flat out stupid. Sanchez’s life wasn’t in danger once it was obvious that the attacker was retreating. Would it be moral if Sanchez let the guy and his parents run off and then later drove to their house and burned it down with them inside?

      1. Burned the house down with all inside? I would say no. Burned it down with French inside? I’m 55/45 on that- for it being moral. Since we’re playing the what if game, here’s some ones for you:

        What if:
        -Sanchez’s baby was injured?
        -Sanchez’s baby was injured permanently?
        -Sanchez’s baby died?
        -Sanchez himself was injured permanently?
        -French was allowed to live and went on to attack/kill others?

        If you attack someone, unprovoked, with force that could be deadly- you DESERVE to get shot. This a-hole attacked a man, AND indirectly a baby, with deadly force.

        What do you think the appropriate response was?
        “Oh hey, could you please ask your son not to knock me out when I’m carrying my baby? That would be much appreciated. Have a nice day!”

        Another thing to consider: when someone kills a violent felon they have possibly saved the lives of others. You could even go so far as to say IT IS OUR DUTY to rid the world of violent felons. However, I won’t go that far because things like the law, our individual abilities, etc. are a real deterrent from doing so.

        1. I hope you’re never on a grand jury.

          1. I hope he’s the one the jury is bringing charges against.

    2. You’re a very sick man.

      1. Yes, I agree. Wanting to rid the world of evil is an absolutely sick mentality. We should all wish the best for violent felons and give them lots of chances and pats on the back.

        1. Yes, wanting to “rid the world of evil” by free-lance killing of those whom you judge to be evil is sick. Mentally healthy people support giving accused criminals due process of law. Get help.

          1. Yes. Mentally healthy people support a legal system where the average rapist serves a 5 year sentence and average murderer 7 years. They support prisoners having health care, tv, visiting privileges, drugs, alcohol, tattoos, and more. They support violent criminals being released to offend again and again and again. Totally logical.

            I have no problem with the due process portion of the law. What I have a problem with are the punishments meted out after due process has ran it’s course. Since the punishments do not fit the crime- the end does justify the means.

            1. Please get back on your meds before you hurt someone. BTW, the average time served for murder in the US is 22 years, not 7.

        2. I hope you never have a child with a mental disability. On the other hand, maybe that wouldn’t be a bad thing, because the first time your child acts out around a cop, the cop would shoot you.

          1. Let’s leave open the possibility that he IS a child with a mental disability.

          2. My brother has a mental disability. I do not for a moment buy that this is the first time the son attacked someone. The parents’ reactions were completely insane if that was the case. Their weird reactions were what caused the cop to evaluate the situation as a continuing threat.

  12. The murder victim was twenty feet away? And the cop “feared for his life”? I don’t think so. He was angry and impulsive. He also has a license to kill. This is the “new America”, the US Police State.
    The victim’s parents are lucky to be alive. They will probably be charged with conspiracy to commit assault on an LEO.

  13. Ok, I say we allow cops to use the “I feared for my life” defense once and only once. It can be the “get out of jail free” ticket they want but upon uttering the words whey are immediately and forever banned from practicing law enforcement of any kind, forevermore.

    I think it might save lives in the long run.

  14. The entire point of this country was to acquit on reasonable doubt. Pretty sure ninety-nine heated comments on a wall counts as reasonable doubt.

    And yes, it’s a damned shame civilians don’t get this anymore, but look at us all wanting to end it for some reason or another: because this guy didn’t have a visa, or that guy didn’t have a carry permit, or the other guy was or was not a cop.

  15. The instant case appears to be overreaction, no big loss. But the Dallas jury (get this!) convicted the pistol-happy Police Woman–the one with a stripper nickname–for murder One. I would have lost my bet. It would appear Dallas is no longer managing to keep blacks, hippies and hispanics off juries. It’s a New Dawn!

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