Family of mentally disabled man fatally shot by off-duty officer in Costco awarded $17M

Family of mentally disabled man fatally shot by off-duty officer in Costco awarded $17M
© Associated Press/Reed Saxon

The family of a mentally disabled man who was fatally shot by an off-duty Los Angeles police officer in a Costco in 2019 was awarded $17 million in damages Wednesday. 

The verdict came a day after U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal found that Salvador Sanchez used excessive force when he killed 32-year-old Kenneth French, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Bernal ruled Tuesday that the evidence was blatant enough that the jury did not need to consider the question, though jurors were asked to decide whether Sanchez was serving in his role as a Los Angeles Police Department officer when he fired at the French family, which they unanimously decided he was.  

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Sanchez is currently awaiting trial on manslaughter and assault charges filed by the California attorney general's office after a grand jury refused to indict him in the months after the killing, according to The Times. 

The shooting at a Costco in Corona, Calif., occurred after Sanchez and French got into a confrontation while in line for sausages. Sanchez fired 10 shots, killing French and injuring his parents, Russell and Paola French.

Police documents that were publicized in 2019 showed that Sanchez was at least 20 feet from French and his parents when he started shooting, according to The times. Police also claimed that Sanchez first opened fire less than four seconds after French struck him.

Sanchez's lawyers have previously claimed that the former officer believed that French had a gun, which he did not, The Times noted. 

Damages awarded to the French family covered wrongful death, pain, suffering, economic loss and severe emotional distress, among other things, according to the Times. Russell French lost a kidney, his gallbladder and part of his intestines as a result of his injuries, according to Dale Galipo, the family's attorney.

The money awarded to Kenneth French's parents was unusually high for a police shooting case, Galipo told The Times. 

“They’re hoping that now that they’ve received some justice on behalf of Kenneth, they can start the healing and closure process,” he said.