RIVERSIDE, Calif. — A federal jury on Wednesday awarded $17 million to the parents of a mentally ill man who was shot in a Costco store by an off-duty Los Angeles police officer.
The panel in Riverside ruled in a lawsuit filed against the city of LA and the former officer in the June 14, 2019, killing of 32-year-old Kenneth French.
“I am pleased with the verdict and hoping it brings some justice to the family,” Dale Galipo, an attorney for the family, told KNBC-TV.
The jurors in the lawsuit trial concluded that Salvador Sanchez, a seven-year LAPD veteran, was acting within the scope of his employment even though he was off duty. That means the city may be liable for much of the award.
The city will review its options, including an appeal, said Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for the city attorney’s office.
French was not armed and was moving away from Sanchez
Sanchez was shopping at a sausage sample table in the Corona store, southeast of Los Angeles, when French struck or shoved him from behind without warning, authorities said.
Sanchez was holding his 1 1/2-year-old son in his arms when he was knocked to the ground.
Sanchez pulled a handgun and opened fire, killing French and seriously wounding his parents, Russell and Paola French.
Sanchez told investigators he believed French had a gun, that he had been shot and that his life and his son’s life were in immediate danger. However, French was not armed and was moving away from Sanchez when he opened fire.
His parents said French had been diagnosed with schizophrenia.
The LAPD fired Sanchez last year after the city’s civilian Board of Police Commissioners determined that French’s conduct did not present an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury — meaning that the use of lethal force was not “objectively reasonable.”
The Riverside County district attorney declined to charge Sanchez criminally when a grand jury didn’t indict him. However, the state attorney general charged him with voluntary manslaughter and assault with a semiautomatic firearm.
He is awaiting trial.
An email seeking comment from David Winslow, an attorney who is representing Sanchez in the criminal case, wasn’t immediately returned.