Corona Costco shooter built false narrative after killing attacker in panic, prosecutor says – Orange County Register

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When off-duty Los Angeles Police Department Officer Salvador Sanchez fatally shot 32-year-old Kenneth French and wounded his parents after the intellectually disabled man slugged Sanchez in the deli of the Costco in Corona in 2019, Sanchez not only panicked, he also fabricated a narrative intended to show he acted reasonably and therefore to avoid criminal charges, a prosecutor said Tuesday,  Dec. 26.

Videos of Sanchez’s statements to authorities both immediately after the shooting and two months later revealed his “lies,” Deputy state Attorney General Mike Murphy said during closing arguments of Sanchez’s voluntary manslaughter trial at the Larson Justice Center in Indio.

Sanchez is also on trial on two counts of assault with a firearm for wounding Russell and Paola French. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

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“He told police he had been shot in the head, he believed Kenneth was hunkered down and he believed Kenneth was armed with a gun. But none of those beliefs was true. Nor were they the result of a reasonable interpretation of the circumstances. Rather they were the result of the defendant’s irrational projection of his own fears and his own failure to reasonably see and hear the facts that were right in front of him,” Murphy told jurors.

Sanchez told Corona police who arrived four minutes after the off-duty shooting that he believed he had been knocked unconscious with his 20-month-old son in his arms while he and the Frenches waited in line for sausage samples. He thought he had awakened to see Kenneth in a fighting stance. Sanchez, as French’s parents pushed their son away and pleaded “Don’t shoot,” fired 10 times from his service weapon.

Sanchez was not in uniform.

Murphy said Sanchez should not have fired within what testimony indicated was 3-4 seconds of being hit.

“The defendant needed to take a few moments to see if he had a gunshot wound and realize he did not and a moment to reasonably assess the situation and look and hear what was going on in front of him and realize the Frenches did not present a threat at that moment. That’s what a reasonable person would have done in those circumstances. A reasonable person would not have decided it was necessary to shoot 10 rounds in a Costco and kill Kenneth French and shoot his parents,” Murphy said.

Sanchez’s statements and actions when police arrived after the shooting reflected clear thinking and were not those of a person who had been knocked unconscious, Murphy said. Sanchez clearly answered officers’ questions and did not appear disoriented. He was not injured, Murphy told jurors.

At the scene, Sanchez told officers that “I saw a flash and I felt my head knocked off,” according to body-worn camera video. He didn’t tell officers he saw a gun, Murphy said.

But two months later, in a videotaped statement to investigators at the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office,  Sanchez said, “I saw someone holding a gun up to my head. The pain that I  felt was absolutely searing. I thought I was shot. I was shot.” The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute the case after the county grand jury declined to indict Sanchez.

Murphy, with the state Attorney General’s Office, which filed the criminal case, said the statements about someone holding a gun and him thinking he was shot  are evidence that Sanchez was building a new narrative.

But Sanchez’s attorney, Michael Schwartz, said that by two months later, everyone knew that French was unarmed and that the statement was not a lie, but simply Sanchez’s recollection.

Schwartz began his closing argument late Tuesday and was scheduled to resume it Wednesday morning.

He said it was unreasonable for Murphy to say that Sanchez should have taken more time to assess the situation.

“The prosecution says he needs to confirm the need for deadly force before using it,” Schwartz said. “It sounds nice. It speaks against the reality of the situation. You don’t have time in the moment to confirm the actual threat. Here’s the kicker. If the beliefs were reasonable, the danger does not need to actually exist. Confirming it is actually the opposite of what the law says. If the danger was real, meaning Ken French had a gun, and you take time to confirm it, you’re dead.”

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