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LAPD investigates off-duty officer who killed man in crowded Costco store

Los Angeles Times logo Los Angeles Times 6/17/2019 Laura Newberry
a man standing in front of a building © Courtesy Rick Shureih

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles police investigators are reviewing whether an off-duty officer who opened fire in a Costco store in Corona, killing a man described by his family as having an intellectual disability and wounding two of the man's relatives, violated any department policies in the shooting, officials said Monday.

The LAPD officer, who has not been identified, was shopping at Costco with his family Friday night when Corona police said he was attacked while holding his young child. Authorities said the assault was unprovoked and led the officer to fire his weapon, killing 32-year-old Kenneth French and wounding two of French's family members, whom a relative identified as French's parents.

The officer, assigned to the department's Southwest Division, suffered minor injuries in the confrontation and was taken to a hospital and later discharged. His gun was the only weapon involved in the incident and specifics about what led up to shooting have not been made public.

RELATED: Costco shooting: Police say officer holding child was attacked and opened fire

A Corona police spokesman said Monday that the department does not have any additional information to release.

The officer's work status with the LAPD has not been made clear. However, a law enforcement source told the Los Angeles Times that the patrol officer is with his family for support and has not been placed on leave.

LAPD Chief Michel Moore is expected to be briefed on the incident in the coming days, and the officer likely will meet with a department psychologist to determine when he should return to work, according to the source.

The administrative investigation is standard protocol whenever an officer fires his or her gun. The five-person Police Commission ultimately decides whether officers are justified in opening fire and whether they followed department rules before pulling the trigger.

In 2018, the Police Commission determined that Officer Kevin Ferguson violated the department's rules when he fired his gun while off-duty during a clash with a group of teenagers in Anaheim a year earlier, a caught-on-camera dispute that went viral and triggered days of protests.

In a Facebook post Sunday morning, French's cousin Rick Shureih shared a photo of the family at Universal Studios and questioned the necessity of the shooting.

"Do they look intimidating to you? Did he really have to shoot them all?" Shureih wrote. "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."

Shureih said his cousin had an intellectual disability, was nonverbal and had the mental capacity of a teenager. The 32-year-old lived with his parents, whom Shureih identified as Russell and Paola French. Both were being treated in an intensive care unit as of Sunday night, Shureih said.

Experts say it's not uncommon for officers to carry their firearms in public while off-duty.

Off-duty police, like private citizens with firearm permits in California, are legally allowed to discharge their weapon in self-defense in the event of an imminent attack and if there is no ability to retreat from the situation, said Jody Armour, a law professor at the University of Southern California.

"The real question will be whether a reasonable person in the situation of the shooter would have believed he was under attack, threatened with death or serious bodily injury," he said. "The shooter has to feel like they're about to be attacked and there was no less drastic alternative."

(Times staff writer Cindy Chang contributed to this report.) | Twitter: @LauraMNewberry

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