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Off-Duty Police Officer Fatally Shoots Disabled Man, Surviving Family Awarded $17.2M

It was a warm June evening in 2019. The Friday eve before Father’s Day, shoppers flocked to the local Costco in Corona, California. Among them was an off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer named Salvador Sanchez, with his wife and toddler. Enjoying the privileges of his job, Sanchez came armed with his work handgun. While inside the store, the officer and his son stopped at a food stand to try some samples. As he waited for his tiny sausages, a family approached him from his right — a mother (Paola French), a father (Russel French), and a developmentally disabled 32-year-old adult son (Kenneth French). Little did the family know that in a few moments, Officer Sanchez’s decisions would impact the rest of their lives.

For reasons unknown, Kenneth slapped the back of Officer Sanchez’s head. Sanchez lost his balance, dropped to the ground, and identified himself as a police officer. Then, he pulled out his gun.

Russel and Paola pleaded with the officer not to shoot and explained that Kenneth was disabled. The officer fired anyway. He hit Paola first. As she fell, a bullet struck Russel. Finally, Sanchez shot four bullets into Kenneth, killing him. Salvador Sanchez not only didn’t summon help for the French family, he instead yelled at other Costco shoppers not to help the victims as blood pooled around them.

Police responded to the incident, and paramedics rushed Russel and Paola to a local hospital where they were induced into comas. They underwent a series of surgeries for the gunshot wounds they sustained. Their injuries were so severe they had to stay in the hospital for several months. Worse, upon waking from their comas, Russel and Paola were greeted with the agony of losing their son, Kenneth.

Civil rights and police misconduct attorneys Dale Galipo, Eric Valenzuela, and Renée V. Masongsong of the Law Offices of Dale K. Galipo took the case about one week after the incident. The trio requested that Costco release its surveillance footage of the shooting. To their dismay, there was only one garbled, pixelated video from a camera on the opposite side of the store. Dale, Eric, and Renée needed something that could contextualize the grainy footage and clearly show what happened at Costco that evening. Thus, Dale, Eric, and Renée contacted DK Global to create an animation that reconstructed the incident.

DK Global worked with medical experts and renowned forensic pathologist, Dr. Bennet Omalu. They recreated the scene of the shooting in brilliant detail.

The animation first displayed a photo of the French family, followed by a rendered version of them shopping inside Costco. The video then showed Kenneth in line behind Officer Sanchez where he proceeded to slap the back of the officer’s head. Sanchez fell to the floor and reached for his gun. The video juxtaposed a replay of the grainy surveillance footage with the animation of the incident. The demonstrative continued as Russel led Kenneth away from Officer Sanchez before the latter sprayed bullets at the family. Paola shielded her husband and son as she and Russel fell to the floor. Then, the officer fatally shot Kenneth. The visual showed the trajectory of each bullet, along with a description of each wound that the gunshots caused. Finally, the video noted that the bullets had entered Kenneth’s posterior, demonstrating that he had been actively moving away from the officer and proving that he was not a threat.

The jurors experienced the horror of the incident as they watched the presentation during trial. Dale, Eric, and Renée used a nontraditional strategy and requested the judge issue a ruling about liability based on the facts and matter of law. The judge ruled in the trio’s favor, leaving the jury to determine causation and damages. The judge’s ruling, along with the compelling visuals, allowed Dale, Eric, and Renée to secure a $17,200,000 verdict for the family.

Dale Galipo is the founder and principal of the Law Offices of Dale K. Galipo in Woodland Hills, California. He started his own personal injury law firm in 1991, obtaining multi-million-dollar verdicts on personal injury cases. In 2002, he began focusing his law practice on police misconduct, taking on cases involving excessive force, false arrests, denial of medical care, and sexual misconduct. Dale has gone to trial and won more cases against the police than any attorney in the country.

Eric Valenzuela has more than 11 years of experience at the Law Offices of Dale K. Galipo. He specializes in civil rights police excessive force that results in death or serious bodily injury. Eric has litigated nearly 100 police misconduct cases, most of them shooting deaths. In his free time, Eric loves spending time with his two dogs, Smokey and Maggie.

Renée Valentine Masongsong has been with the Law Offices of Dale K. Galipo since 2013. She has worked on multiple civil rights police excessive force cases and has secured numerous seven-figure settlements and multi-million-dollar jury verdicts. Renée graduated from Pepperdine University in 2011 and was a judicial extern to the Honorable Alex Kozinski in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

"If your case is going to trial, an animation is a great thing to have. You just have 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 that they can guide you and help."
Dale K. Galipo - Law Offices of Dale K. Galipo
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