A former Los Angeles Police Department officer was charged with voluntary manslaughter in an off-duty shooting that killed an unarmed man and wounded the victim's parents at a Southern California Costco.
Salvador Sanchez also was charged with assault with a semiautomatic firearm in connection with the 2019 confrontation during a shopping trip at the Costco in Corona.
The shooting killed 32-year-old Kenneth French, who suffers from an intellectual disability, and wounded the man’s parents, Russell and Paola French, inside the store.
Police video obtained by NBC4's I-Team captured the chaotic moments after the June 2019 shooting.
Sanchez was arrested early Monday in Riverside County, California Attorney General Rob Bonta's office said in a statement, approximately six months after NBC4 was first to show body worn video and other police evidence captured on the night of the shooting.
Bonta’s office said the charges followed its review of the case as allowed under the California Constitution.
“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,” Bonta said in the statement. “No matter who you are, nobody is above the law.”
Sanchez, who was seen publicly for the first time during the I-Team’s report on March 2, 2021, said he began firing at French around 7:45 p.m. on June 14, 2019 because, Sanchez said, he thought he had also seen a gun in the French’s hand, something later determined by police to be untrue.
The LAPD found in June, 2020 that Sanchez’s actions that night were unreasonable and had violated the department’s rules for use of lethal force, but many of the details of what happened before and after the shooting were withheld from public view.
That’s largely because Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin opted in August and September 2019 to present the investigative findings to a grand jury, rather than to directly decide if Sanchez’s actions were lawful. The grand jury did not indict Sanchez, and without a charge, transcripts of its hearing were kept sealed.
Hestrin declined to discuss in public what information was presented to the grand jurors.
In a statement, Sanche'z attorney called the charges a political stunt.
"Sal Sanchez was holding his baby when he was violently attacked and knocked to the ground along with his baby," said attorney David Winslow. "He was also knocked unconscious momentarily. At the time of the incident he believed he was protecting himself and his baby from being killed. The Riverside Grand Jury heard all the evidence in this matter and concluded there was no basis for any criminal issues.
"The arrest of Sal Sanchez is a product of the politically motivated program by the California Attorney General to prosecute Police Officers. Sal was not acting as a police officer when he was attacked. He was off duty acting as a father in self-defense and protecting his child.
"This arrest is a political stunt that does absolutely nothing to protect the public."