Ex-LAPD officer charged with voluntary manslaughter in Corona Costco shooting

The state Attorney General’s Office on Monday, Aug. 9, charged fired Los Angeles policeman Salvador Alejandro Sanchez with voluntary manslaughter and two counts of assault with a semiautomatic firearm in the shooting death of an intellectually disabled man and the wounding of his parents inside the Costco in Corona in 2019.

The charges came after the Riverside County grand jury declined to indict Sanchez in 2019.

“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,” the attorney general said. “No matter who you are, nobody is above the law.”

Sanchez, 30, was arrested at 9:40 a.m. Monday. He was booked into Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside and was released the same day after posting $155,000 bail, jail records show. No court date has been set.

On June 14, 2019, then-Officer Sanchez, while off-duty, shot and killed 32-year-old Kenneth French after French, who was nonverbal and unarmed, struck him in the head as Sanchez held his 18-month-old child. Sanchez also shot and wounded French’s parents, Russell, 58, and Paola, 59. Sanchez immediately afterward told police that he believed he had been shot and that French was still a threat.

Sanchez later told investigators that he believed he was knocked unconscious before firing, though Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin would later say he could not find evidence of that assertion.

David Winslow, an attorney who represented Sanchez in the LAPD’s administrative investigation that culminated in his dismissal in July 2020, said Monday that Sanchez was not guilty of any crime.

“Sal Sanchez was holding his baby when he was violently attacked and knocked to the ground along with his baby,” Winslow said in a statement. “He was also knocked unconscious momentarily.

“At the time of the incident he believed he was protecting himself and his baby from being killed,” Winslow said. “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,” the lawyer said.

Without indicating why the attorney general determined that a crime occurred, a spokesperson for that office said the review of the shooting was requested by the Frenches.

Dale Galipo, who is representing French’s parents in a lawsuit against Sanchez and the city of Los Angeles, said the Frenches had no comment Monday.

The Los Angeles Police Commission ruled that the shooting violated LAPD policy on the use of force.

On the day of the shooting, shoppers and employees ran for the exits or for cover in a cooler when they heard multiple shots ring out about 7:45 p.m.

Joe DelGiudice, the Riverside County District Attorney’s chief of investigations, said at the time of the September 2019 grand jury announcement that his office determined that 3.8 seconds elapsed from the time French struck Sanchez to the time Sanchez fired the first of 10 shots. Three shots hit French in the back, one hit him in the shoulder, one hit his mother in the stomach and one hit his father in the back.

Paola French said at an August 2019 news conference announcing the lawsuit that she and her husband begged Sanchez not to shoot her son.

“I told Officer Sanchez not to shoot twice,” Paola French said. “I even said ‘please.’ I was pleading for my son and our lives, but he was still shot in the back.”

Russell French said: “I begged and told him not to shoot. I told him we had no guns, and my son was sick.”

The nearest surveillance camera to the shooting, which happened in the deli area, did not record the event. As a result, the only video available to authorities was a grainy tape filmed from far away that did not show the initial contact between French and Sanchez or the shooting. A person wearing a striped shirt can be seen being pushed away by someone. A third person then crawls into camera view, before all three fall to the floor.

Hestrin submitted the case to the grand jury instead of weighing charges himself, he said, partly because there were witnesses who would not talk to his investigators. Grand juries have the power to force a witness to testify through a subpoena.

“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 announcing the grand jury’s decision.

At least 12 of the 19 grand jurors must agree on whether there was probable cause to believe a crime occurred before someone can be prosecuted. Hestrin said he had the power to override the grand jury’s decision.

The decision not to charge Sanchez outraged many members of the community, some of whom accused Hestrin of protecting a fellow law enforcement officer.

Hestrin, through his office, declined comment on Monday to the charges.

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