CORONA, Calif. - In a tearful news conference Monday, the Riverside couple wounded when an off-duty Los Angeles police officer fatally shot their developmentally disabled son during what the lawman contends was an act of self-defense at a Costco in Corona decried the shooting and said they presented no danger to the officer.
“I begged and told him not to shoot,” Russell French told reporters at the Ayres Hotel in Corona. “I said we have no guns and my son is sick. He still shot.''
Russell and Paola French's son, 32-year-old Kenneth French, was killed when Los Angeles Police Department Officer Salvador Sanchez opened fire the afternoon of June 14 inside the Costco store after what the officer's attorney has described as a life-threatening assault by Kenneth.
Watch the full press conference:
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Sanchez, a Southwest Division patrol officer who has been with the police department since May 2012, is on paid administrative leave.
Dale Galipo, attorney for the French family, again insisted the shooting was not only unwarranted, but “one of the most egregious shootings I have seen.''
Galipo said he filed a damages claim Monday against the LAPD and the city of Los Angeles, a precursor to a lawsuit. He did not specify a damages amount being sought.
Kenneth French's parents suffered gunshot wounds to the back when the lawman opened fire, according to Galipo, who said earlier the injuries confirm “that they were not facing in Officer Sanchez's direction at the time they were shot.” He said the couple have had a difficult physical recovery.
Photo of Kenneth, Paola, and Russell French
“I told Officer Sanchez not to shoot twice, I even said please," Paola French told reporters. "I was pleading for our son, and our lives and was still shot in the back. What threat did I pose to him?”
Galipo called for the release of surveillance video from inside the Costco store. The release has been blocked by a court order obtained by the Riverside County District Attorney's Office, which is investigating the shooting to determine if charges are warranted.
District Attorney Mike Hestrin declined to comment on the matter Friday.
He said in June that the Corona Police Department had submitted its findings on the Costco incident without a specific recommendation, leaving it to the D.A.'s office to make an unbiased determination regarding potential criminality.
Conflicting stories emerged over the circumstances, with the officer's attorney, David Winslow, insisting his client responded appropriately.
Kenneth French, whom Galipo said was a diagnosed schizophrenic and nonverbal, was in the freezer section of the store at 480 N. McKinley St. when he came into contact with Sanchez, according to witnesses.
Corona police said the off-duty officer was shopping with his family, holding his 18-month-old son in his arms, when, “without provocation, (Kenneth French) assaulted the officer.''
According to Winslow, Sanchez was knocked to the floor and briefly lost consciousness. When he awoke, he found his son next to him, screaming. Winslow said his client “had no choice but to use deadly force” in self-defense.
Galipo told reporters that Kenneth French, who had recently been taken off of his medications for undisclosed reasons, pushed or shoved the officer in the back in a food-sample line, but he denied that there was any serious threat. He also said French's parents tried to explain to the officer that their son was intellectually disabled.
Galipo called Sanchez's response “a complete over-reaction.” He pointed out that, “if anyone other than an off-duty police officer had shot three unarmed civilians in a Costco, that person would be in jail and facing criminal charges for murder.”
Winslow, however, repudiated the “push or shove” description, saying French's action amounted to “a violent attack.”
“Kenneth our firstborn son was a peaceful and loving soul throughout all 32 years of his life. He was caring, helpful and gentle, never aggressive or threatening towards anybody at any time,” Paola French said.
The officer suffered minor injuries, but his son was not hurt.
FOX 11's Mary Stringini contributed to this report.