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At Costco food sample line, gunfire, death and unanswered questions

Hannah Fry, Mark Puente, Richard Winton and Laura Newberry, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES -- It was a typical Friday night at Costco.

The cavernous Corona store was packed, and customers waited in line for food samples -- the quintessential Costco experience.

An off-duty Los Angeles police officer, his wife and their baby were among those in the tasting queue. So was 32-year-old Kenneth French and his parents, who were shopping for a Father's Day barbecue.

An attorney for the officer told The Times it was in this sample line that a lethal confrontation began.

It is still unclear what incited the dispute. But the attorney, David Winslow, said the officer was knocked to the ground by a large man later identified as French. The officer then fired his gun several times, sending scores of frightened Costco members fleeing.

French's injuries were fatal. His parents, Paola and Russell French, were also shot and taken to the hospital in critical condition.

The officer -- who was identified by multiple sources as Salvador Sanchez, a patrol officer in the Southwest Division -- suffered minor injuries.

Los Angeles investigators are assessing whether Sanchez, who has yet to be officially identified by the force, violated any department policies in the shooting. Sanchez has been employed with the LAPD since May 2012, according to department records.

Family members of the Frenches are challenging police accounts of the event. Kenneth French was nonverbal and had the mental capacity of a teenager, said his cousin Rick Shureih. Kenneth had no history of being violent, he said, and his parents are kind and gentle people.

Russell, 58, and Paola, 59, had dedicated their lives to taking care of Kenneth, who lived with them in their Riverside home, Shureih said. Kenneth's condition had worsened in recent years and he rarely spoke. He required constant monitoring.

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