Deadly Costco Corona Shooting: Details Emerge During Hearing

CORONA, CA – The number of shots fired at a Corona Costco – where a man with a developmental disability was killed by an off-duty LAPD officer who was pushed by the victim – made it look like two people were shooting inside the store, a witness said Thursday.

“I heard two shots, then four or five shots separated from the first two,” testified William Gagnon during the preliminary investigation for Salvador Alejandro Sanchez, 33, of Corona. “I assumed there were two shooters.”

Gagnon was called by prosecutors from the United States Attorney’s Office on the second day of Sanchez’s preliminary hearing, which was scheduled to conclude early next week at the Riverside Hall of Justice.

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At the end of the proceedings, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Samuel Diaz will decide whether to tie the defendant to trial on voluntary homicide and two counts of assault with a semi-automatic firearm. machine causing serious bodily harm.

The shooting happened on the evening of June 14, 2019, inside the Costco at 480 N. McKinley St., where Kenneth French, 32, was killed and his parents, Russell and Paola French, all of Corona , were seriously injured.

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Gagnon testified that he was walking around the store, looking for items, when he misplaced his keys. He didn’t realize he’d lost them until he reached the parking lot to leave, prompting him to turn around and walk back into the Costco.

“I was trying to retrace my steps,” recalls the witness.

As he walked towards the main driveway, gunfire erupted, Gagnon said, resulting in several moments of chaos, as people fled in all directions. The witness said that when things calmed down he walked over to where he saw four people lying down, assuming they were victims.

“I saw a guy with a gun in his right hand, pointing it at another person on the ground,” Gagnon testified. “I asked him, ‘Where’s the gun?’ And he said, “He still has it in his hand! He still has it in his hand!”

The person pointing the handgun was Sanchez, according to testimony. Gagnon said he checked the injured individual – later identified as Russell French – who the off-duty officer was waving at, but there was no firearm.

Gagnon testified that Russell French moaned, “My son is sick, my son is sick.”

The witness said that before walking towards Kenneth French, he saw the mother of the fatally injured man lying on the ground, pleading, “Help me, help me.”

Store workers and other witnesses began to converge on the scene to help the injured husband and wife, while Gagnon knelt beside Kenneth French.

“He seemed to be having difficulty breathing,” the witness said. “There was blood coming out of his right ear. His body was shaking. There was like a tremor from time to time. I stayed with him for five or 10 minutes. I took his right hand and I tried to talk to him, but he didn’t answer. Then he seemed to stop bleeding, and there was no more labored breathing. I tried to feel a pulse, but there was no of pulse.

According to the witness, he remained convinced that a second shooter had been involved due to the spacing of the shots – and the fact that he thought he heard two different sound echoes, comparing one to a handgun 9mm and the other to a higher caliber firearm. .

According to Corona police investigators, only Sanchez was armed and fired 10 shots with his disabled pistol.

When he announced criminal charges against Sanchez last summer, California Attorney General Rob Bonta said the case was about “the pursuit of justice” and reaffirmed the principle that “no one is in charge.” above the law”.

The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office in September 2019 took the case to the county’s 19-member grand jury, and jurors declined to indict Sanchez.

In the summer of 2020, the Los Angeles Police Board determined the Costco shooting reflected an unjustifiable use of force, and Sanchez was kicked out of the LAPD a month later.

The French family filed a civil lawsuit against the LAPD, the City of Los Angeles and Sanchez in late 2019, alleging negligence, civil rights violations and intentional and negligent emotional suffering. A Los Angeles jury in November 2021 found in favor of the plaintiffs, awarding them $17 million in damages.

The victims were shopping when they approached a table of food samples with sausages, where the defendant was also standing, holding his then 18-month-old son. No one disputed that, for reasons still unknown, Kenneth French pushed the off-duty lawman to the ground.

According to Sanchez’s civil attorney, David Winslow, his client was dazed, and when he saw his son next to him screaming, he “had no choice but to use deadly force.”

Body-worn camera footage from Corona police officers who attended the scene captured statements from Sanchez indicating he initially believed Kenneth French was holding a weapon. But the victim was unarmed, police said.

Russell and Paola French said they begged Sanchez not to shoot, telling the officer their son, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was largely non-verbal, had psychiatric issues.

Security surveillance tapes from the store showed the victims walking away from Sanchez as he fired.

Kenneth French was shot in the shoulder and three times in the back, while Paola French was shot in the back and her husband was shot in the abdomen, resulting in the loss of a kidney.

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