A 32-year-old nonverbal man with intellectual disabilities who was fatally shot by an off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer on Friday at a Southern California Costco, was a "gentle giant" who needed "constant monitoring," a family member of the victim said Sunday.
The officer, whose name has not been released, was reportedly shopping at the Costco in Corona, California, Friday night when he said he was attacked "without provocation" by Kenneth French. The officer used his service weapon and opened fire, killing French, and wounding French's parents, Russell and Paola.
“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,” Corona Police Officer Tobias Kouroubacalis said.
“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,” he said. “The off-duty officer was transported to a local hospital, where he was treated and released.”
The child held by the officer was not injured in the incident.
Witnesses described a chaotic scene Friday night, with shoppers running for the exits as they feared a mass shooting. At least six or seven shots were heard to be fired during the incident.
A family member to the victim, Rick Shureih, described his cousin as a mentally disabled "gentle giant" who rarely spoke and had to be monitored constantly by his parents.
“He's not the kind to trade words, so I don't believe that a verbal confrontation happened," Shureih told the Riverside Press-Enterprise of the incident.
Shureih also took to Facebook, where he posted a photo of French's parents, Russell and Peola French, writing:
"`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. 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! If anyone was a witness please get in contact with us."
The off-duty officer is assigned to the Los Angeles Police Department's Southwest Station. An LAPD use-of-force investigative team has been working the Costco scene, conducting an investigation into the shooting. Corona is located about 50 miles east of Los Angeles and is a city of around 160,000.
"The officer's gun was the only weapon involved in the incident, contrary to earlier reports," Kouroubacalis added. "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."
Shureih says the family is looking for an attorney and want to see surveillance video from the store.