The parents of an intellectually disabled man shot dead by off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer Salvador Sanchez at a Riverside Costco in 2019 were awarded $17 million in damages by a federal jury Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The verdict comes one day after U.S. District Judge Jesus G. Bernal found that Sanchez—who was terminated from the department last year—used excessive and unreasonable force when he fired ten rounds at Kenneth French, 32, and his parents, Russell and Paola French, during a confrontation on a sausage sample line at the Corona Costco in June, 2019.
Kenneth died from wounds to his right and left lower back, buttocks and left arm, while Russell lost a kidney, his gallbladder and part of his intestines, and Paula was shot in the lower back. Four of the ten shots hit no one.
Sanchez is already on trial for manslaughter and assault charges, which were filed by California’s attorney general after a Riverside grand jury refused to indict him in 2019.
The jury would have been tasked with deciding if Sanchez—who was found to have broken department policy by the L.A. Police Commission judge ruled on Tuesday that the evidence was so clear cut that the six women and two men didn’t have to address that question.
In making their cases, the French’s attorney, Dale K. Galipo, put the blame for the killing on the LAPD, as did Sanchez’s lawyer, Andrew C. Hubert, who was seeking to limit the ex-cop’s financial liability.
“They hired him, they trained him, they gave him permission to have that gun,” Galipo said in his closing. “Make no mistake about it, if Officer Sanchez at the time had not had that weapon by virtue of his LAPD police officer status, this wouldn’t have happened.”
Galipo continued, “Sanchez should be held accountable, but so should they. That’s really what this comes down to, is money. The city doesn’t want to pay these people a dime.”
Hubert concurred, telling the jurors, “Even if he’s off duty, he’s still in the course of his employment.”
In the wake of the killing, Sanchez initially claimed that French had shoved him down and that he believed French had shot him. But French was found to be unarmed and 2019 police documents state that Sanchez was 20 feet from French when he opened fire.
The attorney for the city of Los Angeles, Cory Brente, was the only lawyer who sought to put the blame entirely on Sanchez, telling the jury, “He did what he did on his own—wrongfully, as the court has found.”
The damages awarded include pain and suffering, wrongful death, financial loss and extreme emotional distress caused by Sanchez’s negligence.
A spokesman for City Attorney Mike Feuer says his office is considering an appeal.
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