The family of a mentally ill man who was shot and killed by an off-duty Los Angeles police officer inside a Costco store sued the officer and the city on Wednesday.
Prosecutors declined to charge Officer Salvador Sanchez for the June 14 shooting that killed Kenneth French. His parents, Russell and Paola French, were seriously wounded.
“Our lives will never be the same and the holidays are completely empty without Kenneth,” the parents said in a statement announcing the civil rights lawsuit. “We are still fighting for our health and will not stop fighting for justice.”
The lawsuit seeks unspecified wrongful-death damages, compensatory damages for personal injury and punitive damages over what it says are violations of state civil rights statutes.
The encounter in the store in Corona lasted just 3.8 seconds.
Sanchez, holding his 1½-year-old son, was standing in line for food samples with his wife when French, without warning or provocation, knocked the officer and the child to the ground. Sanchez opened fire, believing his life and his son’s life were in immediate danger from an active shooter, Sanchez’s lawyer, Ira Salzman, has said.
Salzman didn’t immediately respond to an email and phone call Wednesday seeking comment on the lawsuit.
Russell and Paola French told Sanchez that their son struggled with mental illness and pleaded with him not to shoot, but he did anyway, according to the court filing.
The lawsuit says the Frenches posed no threat to Sanchez because they were moving away from him when he opened fire, which is supported by Costco video. Kenneth and Paola also were shot in the back.
Because Sanchez identified himself repeatedly as a police officer to law enforcement agencies that responded, he was not arrested, according to the court filing.
He also was allowed to review surveillance footage from inside the store before being interviewed by detectives, and he was allowed to accompany Los Angeles police investigators on a walk-through of the Costco days after the shooting to explain his actions, the filing said.
“There should not be special privileges given to police officers, and we believe he was given many special privileges after this shooting,” said the French’s attorney, Dale Galipo.
The Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office will review the complaint, spokesman Rob Wilcox said. He had no further comment.
The Los Angeles Police Department doesn’t comment on open litigation, Officer Jeff Lee said. Sanchez is on paid administrative leave as the LAPD investigates whether he followed department policies.
French, 32, had been taken off his medication because of other health complications, which may have affected his behavior that night, Galipo has said.