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City of Los Angeles Deflects Blame for Police Excessive Force Shooting and Wrongful Death

On June 14, 2019, an off-duty Los Angeles Police Officer named Salvador Sanchez was running errands with his family at a Costco in Corona, a Southern California city close to his jurisdiction. Despite being off the clock, Sanchez armed himself with his department-issued handgun for his shopping trip. Officer Sanchez used that gun to fire ten bullets at a family of three. A trio of attorneys from the Law Offices of Dale K. GalipoEric Valenzuela, Renée Valentine Masongsong, and Dale Galipo himself — represented the family against the City of Los Angeles, securing a $17,200,000 verdict.

Officer Sanchez stopped at a food sample table that was serving sausages. Shortly afterward, Kenneth French and his parents, Russell and Paola, approached the same table. Kenneth, 32, was developmentally disabled and largely nonverbal. For unknown reasons, Kenneth slapped Officer Sanchez on the back of the head, causing him to fall to the floor. Russell and Paola apologized for their son and attempted to create distance between Kenneth and Sanchez. However, the LAPD officer unholstered his gun and fired at the family. One bullet hit Paola in the back. A second hit Russell. Four shots hit Kenneth. Four others missed, landing elsewhere in the crowded Costco. Then, Officer Sanchez placed his firearm back in his waistband and lay down on the cement floor.

At the hospital, doctors induced Russell and Paola into comas. They required surgeries and needed to use colostomy bags as their maimed organs recovered. However, that pain paled in comparison to the horror they experienced waking up to find out Kenneth had died at the scene. Worse, local and national news outlets covered the incident ad nauseam, forcing them to relive the shooting over and over again.

The French family was referred to Dale, Eric, and Renée, who helped the family file a civil suit against Officer Sanchez, as well as the City of Los Angeles, as Sanchez acted in the course of his employment.

The city tried to absolve itself of responsibility and pushed back against Dale, Eric, and Renée. In addition to firing Officer Sanchez, they filed a Motion to Dismiss, a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, and a Motion for Summary Judgement — all of which the Plaintiffs overcame.

Nevertheless, Dale, Eric, and Renée had challenges to overcome. When they retrieved the surveillance footage of the incident from Costco, the only camera that captured the shooting was located on the opposite end of the store. Moreover, the video was pixelated and poor quality. In response, the trio retained renowned forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu. Using crime scene evidence, Dr. Omalu mapped the bullets’ trajectories. Then, they contacted DK Global to synthesize their evidence and expert testimony into a visual presentation that a jury could easily understand.

The animation began by introducing the French family, explaining how their Costco shopping trip occurred shortly before Father’s Day. Kenneth and his parents decided to stop at the food sample table, with Salvador Sanchez already waiting there. Next, Kenneth struck Officer Sanchez on his head, followed by the latter drawing his weapon. Russell pleads with Sanchez as Paola cries, “Please, don’t shoot!” Nevertheless, Officer Sanchez opens fire. As the French family lay bleeding, Sanchez yells at witnesses not to help them. The recreation was then juxtaposed with the pixelated surveillance footage to validate its authenticity. Last, the video analyzed the bullets’ trajectories. The bullet that hit Paola entered just left of her sacrum and coccyx and exited through her abdominal wall. The bullet that hit Russell entered his right flank, damaging his kidney. And the four bullets that hit Kenneth perforated most of his vital organs. Notably, all the bullets that hit Kenneth entered from the back, indicating he was moving away from Officer Sanchez and posed no threat.

During the trial, Dale, Eric, and Renée played the video during Dr. Omalu’s testimony and a second time during closing arguments. The jury only needed a few hours to deliberate. They ruled in favor of the Plaintiffs, declaring that Officer Sanchez acted under the color of law and in the course and scope of his employment as a Los Angeles police officer. They awarded the family $17,200,000 in damages.

Renée Valentine Masongsong started working at the Law Offices of Dale K. Galipo in 2013. In 2011, she graduated with a law degree from Pepperdine University, magna cum laude. Ms. Masongsong's work on civil rights police excessive force lawsuits has resulted in multiple seven-figure settlements and verdicts for her clients.

Eric Valenzuela has been litigating civil rights cases for over 11 years, almost exclusively those involving police excessive force resulting in death or serious bodily injury. Eric has represented clients in approximately one hundred instances of police brutality. In addition, he has been involved in settlements for several seven-figure civil rights cases and was recently selected by Super Lawyers as a “Rising Star”.

Dale K. Galipo has been an attorney for 32 years and is regarded as one of the most accomplished civil rights lawyers. Initially focusing on personal injury and criminal defense, Dale shifted his specialty to representing those involved in civil rights cases against the police. Dale has obtained nearly 100 seven-figure verdicts and settlements, prevailing in more than 50 jury trials in the last eight years.

"If your case is going to trial, an animation is a great thing to have. You just have to make sure to make sure to dot your i’s and cross your t’s so you can use it at trial. And contact DK Global early on so they can guide you and help ."
Dale K. Galipo - Las Offices of Dale K. Galipo
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