By sheer convenience, the security camera nearest the shooting of an unarmed mentally ill man by an off-duty LAPD cop inside a Southern California Costco was not working, according to prosecutors who chose not to prosecute the cop.
Instead, Riverside County prosecutors provided a video clip from another security camera they say exonerates Los Angeles police officer Salvador Sanchez.
But the camera is so far away, it is impossible to make out the figures in the video.
The footage shows two people struggling and falling to the ground but it's impossible to make out who they are. Here is how the Los Angeles Times described the footage.
Hestrin played a portion of a surveillance video, but the images were grainy, and it was hard to decipher what was happening. The recording shows French, wearing a striped shirt, being pulled along by a male family member in a dark shirt. The two men become entangled and fall to the ground, and a woman is seen approaching them. Sanchez is barely visible in the far left of the frame.
Police say Sanchez shot 10 times after he was knocked to the ground by Ken French, the 32-year-old man who was killed. His parents, Russell and Paola French, were also shot. Both Ken and Russell were shot in the back. Paola was shot in the abdomen.
The victims were about 20 feet from the cop when he opened fire less than four seconds after he was shoved but prosecutors say it was close enough for the cop to fear for his life.
“The exact distance is unknown, but based on video and physical evidence, the estimated gap was about 20 feet at the time of the shooting,” Corona Police Sgt. Chad Fountain told the Times.
The revelation that the security camera was not working was met with skepticism by the family of the victim.
Dale Galipo, the attorney for parents Russell and Paola French, said Thursday that he believes that additional video exists that could shed new light on the confrontation and added that it could come from the camera hanging above the deli, where the shooting occurred. The family has filed a civil claim for damages against the city of Los Angeles.
“As has been previously expressed, the video provided is the only surveillance video that exists,” DA’s spokesman John Hall wrote in an email Friday in a response to a question about the deli camera. “The specific camera you are asking about was determined to not be functioning at the time of the shooting.”
Phone messages left with the Costco corporate office in Kirkland, Washington, on Thursday and Friday were not returned.
Robert A. Gardner, an independent security and crime prevention advisor based in Santa Paula, said it is not unusual for security cameras to not be working, for various reasons. But he said he doubted that Costco would have inoperable cameras that are just for show in order to save on costs but still dissuade customers from stealing.
The shooting took place on June 14. Earlier this week, the Riverside County District Attorney's Office announced that a grand jury chose not to file charges against Sanchez. Prosecutors still had the option to prosecute but chose not to do so.
Last month, a California judge barred the release of the video for a year after the district attorney's office said its release could "taint the recollection of witnesses as to what happened that day."