A California man who was shot dead by an off-duty police officer at a Costco on June 14 was nonverbal and had an intellectual disability, according to family members.
Corona Police Department officials said 32-year-old Kenneth French from Riverside was killed after he allegedly assaulted an off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer who was holding his young child while shopping at Costco Wholesale in Corona, according to a statement.
The unprovoked attack caused the unnamed officer to fire his weapon, fatally hitting French and wounding two other people, police said. They also confirmed that the officer’s gun was the only weapon involved in the incident.
Speaking to local media, French’s cousin Rick Shureih said his family was looking for answers, expressing disbelief over the incident. He shared how his cousin had an intellectual disability that had declined in recent years, causing him to not speak.
“He was a gentle giant,” Shureih told The Los Angeles Times. “He’s never been violent in the past. He’s always been very cooperative and kept to himself.”
He added that it was unlikely that French had initiated an argument as initial reports of the incident had stated.
“It could have been that he bumped into somebody but couldn’t communicate the fact that he was sorry,” Shureih told the Times.
He told The Press-Enterprise that the two other people who were shot were French’s parents, Russell and Paola French. The couple was still being treated in intensive care on June 16. Police have not released the names of the other people injured.
In a Facebook post on June 16, Shureih shared a photo of his aunt, uncle, and cousin, saying that he didn’t want people on social media to see them as the suspects.
“Do they look intimidating to you? Did he really have to shoot them all? I’m posting this picture because the stories on social media have made them out to be the suspects, and the off duty cop the victim. This is a family that was unarmed and was just grocery shopping. Truth will come out! I’m sure this was a misunderstanding that got escalated for no reason!” Shureih said.
In another post on June 17, Shureih called on the police department to review the surveillance tape and take appropriate action.
“City of Corona Police Department my family has faith that you will do the right thing and arrest the gunman! Our family has witness accounts that do not match up to the original story. We are a pro police family. I have many friends in Law Enforcement. We need justice to prevail! Please review the surveillance tape!” he wrote.
According to reports after the incident, police said two men were engaged in an argument prior to the shooting. Several media outlets also reported witnesses had observed an argument before the incident escalated.
The Corona Police Department said they were working closely with the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office to investigate the circumstances of the incident. So far no one has been charged.
Officer Greg Kraft of the LAPD told the Times that the off-duty officer involved suffered a minor injury and was taken to the hospital and discharged, while the officer’s child was not injured.
Shureih added that the family will be hiring a lawyer to seek the information and answered they need, reported the Times.