Contact Form

    News Details

    Mistrial declared in trial against ex-LAPD officer who fatally shot disabled man in Corona Costco
    • January 19, 2024

    A mistrial was declared Thursday afternoon, Jan. 18, when the jury deadlocked on the charges against a former Los Angeles Police Department officer who fatally shot an intellectually disabled man and wounded his parents after the man slugged the off-duty officer at the Costco on Corona in 2019.

    The state Attorney General’s Office must now decide whether to retry Salvador Alejandro Sanchez on charges of voluntary manslaughter in the death of Kenneth French and two counts of assault with a firearm for injuring French’s parents, Paola and Russell, after the unprovoked attack on Sanchez as he held his toddler son.

    Superior Court Judge Jason L. Stone scheduled a trial-readiness conference for Feb. 13 at Larson Justice Center in Indio.

    Sanchez’s attorney, Michael Schwartz, said after Thursday’s hearing that there had been “some movement” in the attempt Thursday to get the unanimous verdict required by law and that “the majority” of the jurors favored acquittal. Schwartz did not have the exact count.

    “I just think it’s the kind of case where it was a tragedy but it wasn’t a crime, and at this point, they put it in front of a (Riverside County) grand jury and there was no indictment, and they put it in front of a jury and there was no conviction, and at this point, all parties should be allowed to move on,” Schwartz said.

    Schwartz said the defense can make a motion to dismiss the case but added that those requests are rarely granted.

    Messages were sent to the prosecutor, state Deputy Attorney General Mike Murphy, and the Attorney General’s Office seeking comment.

    Jurors were given the case in the monthlong trial on Dec. 27 after attorneys debated whether Sanchez acted recklessly and in haste or whether he was justified in firing a volley of 10 shots seconds after the blindside punch to his head that knocked him to the floor as he held his 20-month-old son.

    The deliberations were interrupted because of scheduling issues in early January, and jurors did not reconvene until Thursday.

    Sanchez, 33, faced up to 33 years in prison if convicted on all counts, Murphy said.

    Kenneth French, top, with his parents Paola French and Russell French in a family photo. The parents were wounded and their son was killed when LAPD Officer Salvador Sanchez opened fire after being punched by Kenneth in the Costco in Corona on June 14, 2019. (Photo courtesy of French family)

    Testimony during the trial was the basis for nuanced closing arguments about whether Sanchez’s actions met the standard for self-defense: what a reasonable person would do given the same circumstances.

    Corona police arrived four minutes after the shooting on June 14, 2019, by Sanchez, who was off duty and not in uniform. Sanchez, in the body-worn camera video, is seen sitting on the deli floor without any visible injuries. He told officers that he believed he saw a flash and that he had been shot. Sanchez said he believed he was knocked unconscious when he hit his head on the floor and that he saw his attacker holding a gun, so he fired his service weapon.

    Kenneth French was struck four times and his parents once each.

    Sanchez was then helped up and was escorted outside, unassisted. He was examined at a hospital and prescribed painkillers, according to his attorney, Michael Schwartz, a lawyer known for defending police officers against criminal charges.

    Murphy took on Sanchez’s account on several fronts.

    Murphy said anyone carrying a gun loaded with 13 bullets should have been more responsible. Murphy accused Sanchez of fabricating the belief that he had been shot to avoid prosecution. Murphy pointed out to jurors that despite Sanchez believing that he’d been injured in the head, he was able to clearly recollect the events for police.

    And Murphy repeatedly insisted that Sanchez should have taken a moment to assess exactly what happened. The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office determined that 3.8 seconds elapsed between the punch and the first shot. Had Sanchez realized he had been slugged and not shot, Murphy said, Kenneth French would be alive and his parents would not have been wounded.

    Murphy said the danger had passed after the punch and that Sanchez was defending a threat that no longer existed.

    Schwartz countered that there was testimony that after the punch, French stood near Sanchez with his fists clenched and with an “angry” look on his face and was capable of additional attack. Had Sanchez waited and the threat had been real, Schwartz said, Sanchez and his son could have been killed.

    Schwartz said Sanchez fired not to kill, but to preserve the lives of himself and his son. Once the threat was ended, he stopped shooting.

    Related Articles

    Crime and Public Safety |

    Corona Costco shooting jury hasn’t reached verdict, will resume deliberations Jan. 18

    Crime and Public Safety |

    Defense in Costco voluntary manslaughter case says shooter was protecting his toddler

    Crime and Public Safety |

    Corona Costco shooter built false narrative after killing attacker in panic, prosecutor says

    Schwartz also played a body-worn camera video that showed Paola French, despite being shot and suffering wounds that would require several surgeries, was, like Sanchez, also able to clearly recollect events for police.

    After Corona police completed their investigation, District Attorney Mike Hestrin asked a court to convene a criminal grand jury to hear testimony. That grand jury declined to indict Sanchez.

    Hestrin, even though he said he believed he could not completely clear Sanchez, then decided not to charge him. Hestrin said he believed Sanchez genuinely feared for his life and that the officer did not receive special treatment.

    “It was the type of case where the community needs to weigh in and draw the lines and say this is what we think about an off-duty officer using force,” Hestrin said in 2019.

    Then in 2020, the Los Angeles Police Commission determined that Sanchez’s actions violated department policy, and he was fired.

    Sanchez “made no attempts to communicate with Kenneth in an effort to de-escalate the incident,” a report from LAPD Chief Michel Moore said. “Additionally, Kenneth was being pushed away (from Sanchez) and was not armed. (Sanchez) did not take time to correctly assess the incident and to analyze the threat.”

    In 2022, a federal jury awarded $17 million to French’s parents in a civil case. Jurors found Sanchez was acting in his role as a police officer — which made the city of Los Angeles liable for paying for most of the damages — when he was fired upon the Frenches.

    Although Corona police investigated the case as an officer-involved shooting, Sanchez’s training — police are supposed to be aware of innocent bystanders who might be in the way of gunfire — was not brought up during closing arguments. Murphy said the standard for determining self-defense does not allow jurors to take into account a defendant’s background, experience or attributes.

    ​ Orange County Register