CORONA — Authorities continued Tuesday to try to figure out what occurred in a Costco store in Corona to prompt an off-duty LAPD officer holding his 18-month-old son to open fire on an unarmed intellectually disabled man, killing him and critically wounding his parents.
The attorney for the officer, whose name has not been released as of Tuesday morning, said Monday his client was getting a food sample for his toddler son when he was attacked and knocked unconscious before awakening to find himself in a fight for his life.
“He was shopping with his wife and 1 1/2-year-old at Costco. His son was in his arms and he was feeding his son some samples when within seconds he was on the ground and woke up from being unconscious and he was fighting for his life,” attorney David Winslow told the Los Angeles Times.
A cousin of the man who was fatally shot by the officer stepped up pressure on investigators, saying the lawman should be behind bars.
“City of Corona Police Department my family has faith that you will do the right thing and arrest the gunman!” Rick Shureih, a cousin of 32-year-old Kenneth French, wrote on Facebook Monday morning.
“Our family has witness accounts that do not match up to the original story. We are a pro-police family. I have many friends in law enforcement. We need justice to prevail! Please review the surveillance tape!”
French was killed in the shooting that erupted at 7:46 p.m. Friday inside the store at 480 N. McKinley St. Two other people, identified by Shureih as French’s parents, Russell and Paola French, were critically wounding in the shooting.
Corona police Officer Tobias Kouroubacalis issued a statement over the weekend saying the off-duty LAPD officer was shopping at Costco with his family, holding his child in his arms, when, “without provocation, a male unknown to the officer’s family assaulted the officer.”
“This attack resulted in the officer firing his weapon, striking the male and two of the male’s family members. The family members are being treated at local hospitals and are in critical condition,” he said. “The off-duty officer was transported to a local hospital, where he was treated and released.”
The child was not injured. French’s mother remains in a coma.
The officer was identified by multiple sources as Salvador Sanchez, a patrol officer in the Southwest Division, The Times reported. He suffered minor injuries.
Los Angeles investigators are assessing whether Sanchez, who has yet to be officially identified by the force, violated any department policies in the shooting. Sanchez has been employed with the LAPD since May 2012, according to department records cited by The Times.
Shureih described French as a mentally disabled “gentle giant” who rarely spoke. “He (had) to be pretty much monitored,” Shureih told The Press- Enterprise. “He’s not the kind to trade words, so I don’t believe that a verbal confrontation happened.”
On Sunday, Shureih posted on Facebook a picture of French and his parents standing outside Universal Studios Hollywood, and wrote:
“`I’m not keeping quiet about this! People need to know! This is my family! These are the victims of the Costco shooting the other night. My cousin Kenneth was killed and his parents, my aunt & uncle were also both shot and are in ICU.
“Do they look intimidating to you? Did he really have to shoot them all? I’m posting this picture because the stories on social media have made them out to be the suspects, and the off-duty cop the victim.
“This is a family that was unarmed and was just grocery shopping. Truth will come out! I’m sure this was a misunderstanding that got escalated for no reason! If anyone was a witness please get in contact with us.”
Shureih said the family is working on hiring a lawyer and is seeking the name of the off-duty officer, as well as surveillance video and witness accounts to try to understand what happened. A GoFundMe page was also established to help with the French family’s expenses. The page notes that the family was shopping at Costco to prepare for a Father’s Day barbecue at their home.
The off-duty officer — assigned to the Los Angeles Police Department’s Southwest Station — suffered minor injuries in the confrontation, Officer Greg Kraft of the LAPD’s Media Relations Section said.
Several agencies are working to unravel the elements of Friday’s incident. As is standard procedure in such investigations, the Corona Police Department is working closely with the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, who will be evaluating the facts and circumstances of this incident.
The LAPD is conducting its own administrative investigation, in conjunction with Corona police, according to the department. Such administrative investigations, which can often take months, ultimately land in front of the Police Commission to determine if the officer acted within department policy.
Anyone who witnessed the shooting or has information about it was asked to contact Corona police Lt. Robert Newman at 951-817-5788 or via email at Robert.Newman@CoronaCA.gov.