Kenneth French, a 32-year-old Riverside man who was described as gentle and non-verbal, was the person who was killed when an off-duty police officer opened fire inside the Costco Warehouse store in Corona, California. An upset family member is questioning why the officer needed to open fire in a busy store, shooting French and two of his family members.
It now turns out that the only person who fired a weapon in Costco that night was the off-duty Los Angeles police officer. That was a surprising turn of events in the shooting that left French dead and two of his relatives wounded and sent panicked shoppers running for the exits. Family members of the Frenches have spoken out on social media, raising questions about the shooting. The official police statement claims that the officer opened fire because he was “assaulted.” Earlier accounts had indicated that an argument erupted in the store, although it’s not clear between whom.
The Los Angeles Times has named the officer Salvador Sanchez. The off-duty officer will not face charges, prosecutors announced on September 25, 2019.
“I’m not keeping quiet about this! People need to know! This is my family! These are the victims of the Costco shooting the other night,” wrote Rick Shureih on Facebook. “My cousin Kenneth was killed and his parents, my aunt & uncle were also both shot and are in ICU. 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!”
The family has roots in Calcutta, India. On social media, Kenneth French and his parents Russell and Paola appeared very family-centered, mostly posting pictures of family and travels. Shureih told the Los Angeles Times on June 16 that Paola remains in a coma.
Shureih shared this photo:
Other people who know the French family have also posted similar comments on social media, questioning why the officer opened fire. “(The parents) are lovely people. It’s a tragedy that this happened to them and to Kenneth,” wrote one woman. “There is not a drop of violence in the whole family. Hopefully justice will be served,” wrote a man. Diago Almeida, a friend, told Heavy that French was a “very nice boy. You could not get a word out of him. You had to force him to talk. He has a full family here.”
“All I know,” wrote another woman, “is that these are the sweetest souls that God had to offer.”
Meanwhile, the officer’s attorney has spoken out to The Los Angeles Times, claiming the unidentified officer “was getting a food sample for his son when he was attacked and briefly knocked out.”
“He was shopping with his wife and 1½-year-old at Costco. His son was was in his arms and he was feeding his son some samples when within seconds he was on the ground and woke up from being unconscious and he was fighting for his life,” the attorney, David Winslow, told the newspaper.
“The Riverside County Coroner’s Office has identified the deceased male as 32 year-old Kenneth French from Riverside,” Corona PD revealed in a press release on June 15, 2019.
When police entered the store in populous Riverside County, California, they encountered a horrific scene: Four people down, with one man, Kenneth French, deceased. Shoppers stampeded for the doors. It was originally painted as an “active shooter” style situation. Some people complained that they couldn’t get the exit doors to open during the shooting.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Corona Police Say the Officer’s Family Was Assaulted ‘Without Provocation’
It was a surprising twist. At first, it appeared there was an “active shooter” and, social media accounts asserted, an off-duty officer was the “hero” who stopped it all. However, now it appears that the officer was the only person who fired. Heavy has asked the Corona Police Department for the names of the French relatives who were wounded and for the name of the officer who opened fire. So far, authorities have not released that information. Despite the social media posts, police haven’t confirmed yet that the other two injured relatives were Kenneth French’s parents, identifying them only as family members of French. The cousin, Rick Shureih, also told the Press-Enterprise that French’s parents were the other two people shot.
On June 14, 2019, at 7:46 p.m., Corona Police Officers “were sent to Costco Wholesale located at 480 N. McKinley Street, Corona regarding a shooting inside the business,” Corona police reported in a statement.
“The investigation has revealed this was an isolated occurrence within the store and was not an uncontained active shooter incident as the preliminary information had been communicated to initial officers. As the investigation is still on-going, the names of involved persons are not being released at this time.”
“Investigation has confirmed an off-duty Los Angeles Police Department Officer was shopping at Costco with his family. Without provocation, a male unknown to the officer’s family assaulted the officer while the officer was holding his young child. This attack resulted in the officer firing his weapon, striking the male and two of the male’s family members. The family members are being treated at local hospitals and are in critical condition. The off duty officer was transported to a local hospital, where he was treated and released. The off duty officer’s child was not injured during this incident. The Riverside County Coroners Office has identified the deceased male as 32 year-old Kenneth French from Riverside.”
The police acknowledged that no one else fired. “The officer’s gun was the only weapon involved in the incident, contrary to earlier reports. As is standard procedure in such investigations, the Corona Police Department is working closely with the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office who will be evaluating the facts and circumstances of this incident,” they said. No one is in custody, the LA Times reported.
Corona police were at the scene very quickly, they said in a previous statement.
“On June 14, 2019, at 7:46 p.m. Corona Police Officers were sent to Costco Wholesale located at 480 N. McKinley Street, Corona regarding an active shooting inside the business. Responding officers arrived in just over one minute,” wrote police.
This is how police initially characterized the shooting:
Upon entering Costco, “officers located four injured people on the floor,” police said. “One subject succumbed to their injuries at the scene and three other subjects, including an off duty officer from another agency, were transported to local hospitals in unknown conditions. Investigators have accounted for all of the people directly involved with this incident. The name, age and gender of the deceased subject will not be released until the Riverside County Sheriff-Coroner formally identifies the subject and notifies their next of kin.”
On social media, some people defended the officer but many people raised questions on the Facebook page of the Corona Police Department. “Who gets ‘assaulted’ without provocation and then who decides to open fire in the middle of a Costco with a bunch of families around?! This story feels like it’s missing some key elements,” wrote one comment writer. “I wasn’t there but was it really necessary for this citizen, cop or not, to shot the entire unarmed family at that? Shooting in Costco with other families around!! Release the tapes!” wrote another.
2. Kenneth French Was ‘Mentally Disabled,’ a Man Who Identifies Himself as His Cousin Says
In another post on social media, Rick Shureih wrote that Kenneth French was mentally disabled.
“My cousin is the person killed,” he wrote. “He was mentally disabled! His innocent parents were also shot and are in ICU. Don’t pass judgment if you don’t know the story! Off duty cops are human too and need to show restraint like the rest of us!” To the Press-Enterprise, he described Kenneth as a “gentle giant.” He also described Kenneth French to the newspaper as “non-violent, non-aggressive, non-verbal,” and said “he has to be pretty much monitored.”
He told the LA Times that Kenneth French’s mental condition had declined to the point where he no longer spoke.
Annalise Lopez, who also identified herself as a family member, wrote, “Please pray for our family. I’m so tired of reading all these posts about the Costco shooting. People have no idea what they are talking about. Please pray for the injured for the deceased and for our family to be strong and get through this.”
She later posted a photo of Kenneth and wrote, “im going to miss u so much ..” She also wrote: “Please keep my family in your prayers. We love you Kenny boy.”
On Facebook, French seemed close to his mother and father, who are named Russell French and Paola French. One post, in 2017, indicated Kenneth French was watching the Houston Astros play the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium in Anaheim with his father.
“At the Angels game with my Dad,” Kenneth French wrote.
A joint Facebook page in the names of Russell and Paola French indicated the following background details, including roots in Calcutta, India: “Studied (ACCA) at Thames Valley University, UK. Went to St James’s School, Calcutta. Went to Dr. Grahams Homes School, Kalimpong. Lives in Riverside, California. From Calcutta Bara Bazar, West Bengal, India.”
Kenneth French wrote on an anniversary post his parents made a year ago: “Congrats and happy anniversary to the greatest parents i could ask for. Love ya guys! What a sweet pic!! ❤️” The reply: “Thank you precious Ken ??” They were married in 1986.
The shooting provoked a mass panic inside the store.
Police said in a statement that a search of the Costco “revealed numerous personal items belonging to shoppers who had to quickly leave the store,” including a purse, cell phone and backpack. Police were returning the items to their owners with proper identification.
3. Kenneth French Wrote That He Studied Accounting & Financial Management Services
According to his Facebook page, Kenneth French “studied Accounting and Financial Management Services at McMaster University” and “went to St. Aloysius Gonzaga Secondary School.” His page said he lived in Riverside, California, and was single.
His visible posts on Facebook were innocuous and involved such things as photos visiting Universal Studios, and fishing. “Hey Everyone, I just wanted to thank all of you and to let you guys know how wonderful it feels to have friends like you that can share in my special day. Thanks!” he wrote after one birthday.
Other posts indicated he traveled to Rome and went to a Los Angeles Lakers game against the Toronto Raptors.
The night of the shooting, authorities were very vague about what happened and the role played by the off-duty officer. Then came the news that he was the person who fired in the first place.
According to The Los Angeles Times, a man with a “Mohawk haircut was arguing with a woman with a child” when gunshots broke out.
That man was “near a freezer section when he pulled a gun and fired at least six shots,” Fox News reported, citing witness accounts.
Aurtis Wilson told the Press-Enterprise that the argument ignited between two people near the produce section.
“And the next thing I know I hear seven shots,” he told the newspaper, adding that he witnessed the man with the weapon “firing at several people.” Christina Colis told the paper that she hid in the produce cooler with others.
It’s not clear how the Frenches played into the supposed argument – if at all. It’s also not yet clear who the man with the Mohawk is.
According to KTLA-TV, that officer works at the Los Angeles Police Department’s southwest division and was released from the hospital. His injuries were minor and the incident was described by LAPD as “an officer-involved shooting.”
4. Police Said Previously That the Shooting Occurred After an Argument
In the first news briefing after the shooting, Corona police Lt. Jeff Edwards said that an argument erupted in the store. However, police never clarified who was arguing with whom or about what.
“There was apparently an argument inside, some type of argument that turned into a gunshot,” Edwards said in the news conference. “From my understanding, it is not domestic.”
A woman wrote on Twitter: “There was another shooting in corona at Costco today, and let me tell you how much I’m sick and tired of this happening. I was 5 ft infront of the shooter, and I was scared to death in my entire life.” Another person asked her if it was a random shooting or dispute and she responded, “Definitely a dispute.”
The deceased victim was a male, and the suspect was detained at the scene, according to Edwards. Early accounts from witnesses had indicated a man with a Mohawk was involved in the argument.
He said that, at 7:45 p.m., police “received a call of shots fired in the Costco. Officers arrived anticipating an active shooter situation. They went inside and encountered four subjects down. There was one deceased male who has yet to be identified. Two other adults with apparent gunshot wounds taken to local hospitals.”
5. Cell Phone Video Captured the Frantic Scene Inside the Store
Cell phone video captured part of the situation inside the store. Be forewarned that it’s disturbing because you can hear people screaming.
People also posted terrified statements on social media. “Corona Costco, shooting, stay clear, gun shots were 1 isle (sic) from my family & I. Not sure what’s happening. Hiding out with kids,” wrote one man on Facebook.
“There was a herd of us running out the door trying to get out of there and you could hear people screaming and the shooting going on. We see this door…we get to the darn fire exit, and it doesn’t open,” said Benjamin Rubalcava, in a video he posted to Facebook. He said people were “hiding behind dog food, behind boxes. All I could do was pray.” He said the exit door “did end up opening” about 45 seconds later after another man kept “messing with it.”