A California judge has barred the release of a surveillance video that recorded an off-duty LAPD cop shooting a family of three, killing a 32-year-old man who has been described as mentally disabled as well as wounding his parents.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Eric Keen said releasing the video could "reasonably could result in harm to the suspect, who is out of custody, and could interfere with the integrity of the jury trial process in any potential subsequent prosecution," according to the Los Angeles Times.
The suspect is Los Angeles police officer Salvador Sanchez although he has not been formally charged. The 32-year-old cop claimed he was in fear for his life when he pulled out his gun and killed Kenneth French and critically wounded his parents, Russell and Paola French, two months ago.
Sanchez's lawyer claims that Kenneth French attacked him while the cop was his holding baby and standing in a food sample line, knocking him out and causing him to lose consciousness. But, the lawyer says, the cop managed to regain consciousness to stop the deadly threat.
“He was shopping with his wife and 1½-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 last month.
But that claim has been disputed by the attorney for the French family who has watched the video and acknowledges that although Kenneth French may have shoved Sanchez, it was not a justification to kill him.
Family Attorney Dale K. Galipo said that Kenneth French had switched his medication which may have contributed to him shoving the cop but also said that Russell French stepped between the cop and his son to deescalate the situation.
But the cop fired several times, killing the son and wounding both parents who were left in critical condition.
"His father was trying to intervene," Galipo told the L.A. Times. “The shooting was excessive and completely unjustified."
Costco employees have also told local media that they were asked to sign non-disclosure forms that forbids them from talking about what they saw that night.
The incident took place on June 14 inside a Costco in Corona, a municipality in Riverside County, which neighbors Los Angeles County.
It was initially reported that Corona police had the suspect in custody as it was evident from the onset that only one person was armed and it was not the shooting victims.
But then it was reported that the shooter was a cop which changed everything.
Judge Keen made his decision on behalf of the Riverside County district attorney's office which had denied a public records request for the video by the Los Angeles Times. The Times appealed and the district attorney sought a court order to keep the video private.
On July 22, Judge Keen ruled the video could not be released for at least a year after the mid-June shooting or until the investigation is completed.
LAPD spokesman Josh Rubenstein told the Los Angeles Times that it will probably take a year to complete its investigation as to whether the cop violated departmental policy by killing an unarmed man while off-duty outside his jurisdiction.
And the district attorney's office said releasing the video could "taint the recollection of witnesses as to what happened that day."