LOS ANGELES — A mistrial was declared after a jury deadlocked late last week in the case of a former Los Angeles police officer who shot and killed a man with a mental disability in a confrontation at a Costco store in Corona.

Kenneth French, 32, was killed during the June 2019 shooting moments after former LAPD Officer Salvador Sanchez claimed he was knocked to the ground by French.

Sanchez, who was off duty at the time, had been standing in a food-tasting line, holding his toddler. After the shooting, Sanchez told Corona police and LAPD investigators he thought he had been shot, and believed he saw French pointing a gun at him and his son when he pulled out his handgun and shot French.

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Sanchez was charged with one count of voluntary manslaughter for French’s death, and two counts of assault with a firearm for wounding French’s mother and father.

The trial began in November and lasted up until the winter holidays, when two weeks of hiatus delayed the jury’s deliberations.

Sanchez’s attorney, Michael Schwartz, said the jury had been deliberating for about 3½ days before the mistrial was declared.

“They put it in front of 12 jurors, they couldn’t get a conviction,” Schwartz said of the charges.

He added that more of the jurors had voiced favor for the defense instead of the prosecution but did not provide exact numbers.

“This was tragic all around,” Schwartz said, “but it wasn’t a crime.”

Now the California attorney general’s office must decide whether to retry Sanchez. A hearing is set for Feb. 13. A representative for the attorney general’s office did not respond to a request for comment as of last Thursday.

“I’m disappointed in the resolution, or the lack of resolution,” Deputy Atty. Gen. Mike Murphy, the prosecutor in the case, told the Desert Sun.

Sanchez was charged by the California attorney general’s office in August 2021, a month after the Riverside County district attorney’s office announced it would not file criminal charges against the off-duty officer.

When California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta announced charges against Sanchez, he said his office was doing so under the state’s Constitution, which allows him to file charges in cases where the law is “not adequately enforced in any county.”

When charges were filed, Sanchez’s attorney at the time, David Winslow, told The Times his client was momentarily unconscious because of the fall, and that the off-duty officer believed he was being killed. Sanchez also told investigators he believed French had shot him.

French was unarmed.

“He believed he was protecting himself and his baby from being killed,” Winslow said at the time.

Police documents released about the encounter stated Sanchez was at least 20 feet from French when he started shooting, less than four seconds after French hit him.

Sanchez was fired from the LAPD in 2020 after the Police Commission ruled he violated department policy when he shot and killed French.

A 30-page report released by LAPD Chief Michel Moore found inconsistencies in Sanchez’s account. Moore, in a statement, said Sanchez’s actions “cannot be justified and are inconsistent with the Department’s core values, training and expectations of every member of this organization.”

In October 2021, a federal jury awarded $17 million in damages to French’s family, finding that Sanchez used excessive and unreasonable force in the shooting.

© 2024 Los Angeles Times
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