Police fatally shot a man who neighbors say was deaf and mentally challenged after he failed to comply with orders Tuesday night.
Magdiel Sanchez, 35, was Tased and then fatally shot by an Oklahoma City Police officer after they say he advanced toward them with a metal pipe. Neighbors frantically screamed at the officers during the incident, telling them Sanchez was unable to hear their orders because he was deaf.
Now, the community is reeling from the death of one of its well-known neighbors, and the police department is answering questions as to why lethal force was used. Sanchez had no criminal record and wasn’t involved in the incident officers were responding to.
Here’s what you need to know about Sanchez and the incident:
1. Police Were Responding to a Hit-And-Run Accident & Noticed Sanchez on a Porch
Oklahoma City Police Capt. Bo Mathews, who also acts as the department’s public information officer, told reporters Wednesday they were responding to a report of a hit-and-run accident around 8:15 p.m. local time Tuesday. A witness of the accident told police a vehicle that was involved in the accident went to an address nearby, Mathews said.
Lt. Matthew Lindsey went to the address specified by the witness and saw Sanchez on the porch of the home holding what appeared to be a metal pipe measuring around 2 feet and a leather loop in his right hand, Mathews said.
Upon confronting Sanchez, Lindsey called for backup, and Sgt. Christopher Barnes arrived on scene shortly thereafter. According to Mathews, Lindsey had his Taser drawn and Barnes had his gun when Sanchez walked off the porch and approached Barnes.
Mathews said witnesses nearby screamed at the officers not to shoot because Sanchez was “deaf and could not hear.”
“The officers didn’t know this at the time,” Mathews said. “I don’t know exactly what the officers were thinking at that point, because I was not there. But they very well could not have heard, you know, everybody yelling, everybody yelling around them.”
As Sanchez approached and was about 15-feet away, both Lindsey and Barnes fired their respective weapons at the same time, striking Sanchez.
Emergency personnel arrived on scene after that, and Sanchez was pronounced dead at the scene. Afterward, it was determined that Sanchez’s father was driving the vehicle used in the hit-and-run incident. He told The Oklahoman his son wasn’t in the car when he “struck something and drove off,” noting it wasn’t a person he hit.
Neither of the two officers weren’t wearing bodycams at the time of incident.
2. Neighbors Say Sanchez Would Often Walk Around With a Stick & Communicated With His Hands
Neighbors have struggled to find answers as to why officers used lethal force on Sanchez, who struggled with his cognitive abilities.
One neighbor who lives two houses down from the incident, Jolie Guebara, said to The Associated Press that Sanchez was always known to have a stick in his hand that he’d walk around with “because there’s a lot of stray dogs” in the area. He would also write notes to communicate with her and her husband, she said, adding that she heard around five-to-six gunshots fired at the time of incident.
Another neighbor, Julio Rayos, told The Oklahoman that Sanchez communicated through his hands and never spoke.
“He don’t speak, he don’t hear, mainly it is hand movements,” Rayos told the newspaper. “That’s how he communicates. I believe he was frustrated trying to tell them what was going on.”
3. The Officer Who Shot Sanchez Has Been Placed on Leave
Mathews said in his remarks to media that Barnes has been placed on paid administrative leave as an investigation has been opened into the matter.
“More than one shot was fired,” Mathews said. “In those situations, very volatile situations, when you have a weapon out, you can get what they call tunnel vision or you can really lock into just the person that has the weapon that’d be the threat against you.”
It hasn’t yet been disclosed how long Barnes has been part of the force, but an arrest report in March was quoted in a March NewsOK.com story about a criminal who tried to smuggle marijuana into jail.
Barnes said that a woman named Geralynn Thelma Chevarillo, a.k.a “Lady G” rocked a jukebox at an Oklahoma City bar before it tipped over onto her, shattering glass. “Lady G” picked up the glass shards and threw them across the bar, his police report said.
As “Lady G” was asked to leave by bar staff, Barnes wrote that she threatened to “shoot the place up with an ‘AK.'”
She was arrested by Barnes and taken into custody without much incident despite the chaotic scene.
“I have heard the same threats from (Lady G) almost every time I deal with her on other calls,” Barnes wrote in his report.
Police say that Lady G hatched a plan to have an offender that serves a weekend sentence to smuggle in marijuana for other inmates, and officers found 27 grams of it wrapped in electrical tape on the “weekender.”
4. The Police-Involved Shooting is Another One in a String of Recent Incidents in Oklahoma
Sanchez’s death marked the latest incident of law enforcement involved shootings in Oklahoma recently.
In May, a white former Tulsa police officer, Betty Shelby, was found not guilty in the death of Terence Crutcher. In 2016, Shelby shot and killed Crutcher, an unarmed black man whose hands were up as she fired. Like Sanchez’s death, another officer fired a Taser at the same time Shelby fired her gun.
In 2015, a white reserve deputy in Tulsa County, Robert Bates, shot and killed an unarmed black man named Eric Harris, who was laying on the ground and being subdued. The officer claimed that he meant to shoot the man with his Taser, but mistakenly used his firearm instead. After an investigation and trial, the officer was sentenced to four years in prison.
Bates said he wished he would have never made the decision to become a reserve officer in the first place, saying it was a “horrible mistake.”
“I regret the whole thing,” Bates said to NBC News from prison. “I regret that I ever decided to try to give something back to the community.”
5. Nationwide Protests Have Been Spurred by Police-Involved Shootings
Police-involved shootings have received scrutiny recently for their frequency and allegations of being racially-motivated.
On September 15, a circuit court judge in St. Louis acquitted a white officer who fatally shot a black man that was accused of being a heroin dealer. Prosecutors accused the officer, Jason Stockley, of planting a gun on the man, Anthony Lamar Smith.
The not-guilty verdict led to intense protests on the streets of downtown St. Louis, resulting in numerous officers being injured and over 100 arrests being made over the course of four consecutive nights.
On September 16, a 21-year-old engineering student on the Georgia Tech campus was shot and killed by officers after they said the student, Scout Schultz, approached them with what appeared to be a knife. The weapon was later determined to be a multi-purpose tool, similar to a pocket knife.
A vigil was held for Schultz in the days that followed, and it turned into “violent” demonstrations hours later, police said, as some protesters lit a police vehicle on fire and clashed with officers.