Kenneth French, a 32-year-old developmentally disabled man, was shot and killed by an off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer at a Costco store in Corona, California on Friday.
The officer, whose name has not yet been released, also shot French’s parents, Russell and Paola French. The two are both hospitalized and in critical condition. Paola French was still in a coma as of Sunday night, according to the Los Angeles Times. French lived with his parents, as he reportedly had the mental capacity of a teenager. Kenneth French also had a condition that rendered him unable to speak.
French’s cousin, Rick Shureih, posted an image to his Facebook profile over the weekend of French and his parents at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, asking, “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,” Shureih wrote.
The Corona Police Department stated that Kenneth French assaulted the off-duty officer without provocation at the Costco while he was holding a small child. At some point, the off-duty officer pulled his gun and fired at French. His parents were also shot when they tried to protect him from the off-duty officer. The child was not injured in the alleged assault, and the officer was treated and released from a local hospital.
While speaking to the LA Times, Shureih said his cousin was a “gentle giant” who had no history of violent or criminal activity, and described French’s parents — his own aunt and uncle — as “the sweetest people in the world.” In response to the Corona Police Department’s assertion that Kenneth French assaulted the off-duty officer, Shureih said the fact that his cousin was nonverbal may have been what prompted the officer to assume French was acting maliciously.
“It could have been that he bumped into somebody but couldn’t communicate the fact that he was sorry,” Shureih said.
“We need witnesses to come forward. We need to know the shooter’s name. We need to get the surveillance tape from Costco,” he added. “These are things we need to pursue to make sure justice is done.”
As of publication, the Corona Police Department has not offered any additional background on what led up to the shooting, and has not yet responded to Grit Post‘s request for comment. The Los Angeles Police Department told Grit Post that it is only handling the “administrative side” of the investigation. The department has not yet said whether or not the officer in question has been placed on leave.
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.