OKLAHOMA CITY – Officials with the Oklahoma City Police Department say the investigation into the deadly shooting involving an officer is still ongoing.
On Tuesday night, officers were responding to a hit-and-run accident near S.E. 57th St. and Stiles, and witnesses led them to the suspect’s vehicle at a home in the 200 block of S.E. 57th St.
Oklahoma City Police Lt. Matthew Lindsey went by the house and spotted 35-year-old Magdiel Sanchez holding a large pipe in his right hand.
Investigators say Sgt.Christopher Barnes also arrived on the scene, and Sanchez held up the pipe and began coming toward the officers.
Authorities say Lt. Lindsey and Sgt. Barnes ordered Sanchez to drop the weapon and get on the ground, but he continued to move toward them.
As Sanchez continued to move toward them, Lt. Lindsey deployed a taser and Sgt. Barnes fired his weapon.
Sanchez was hit, and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Investigators say they learned after the shooting that Sanchez is deaf and could not hear their commands.
On Thursday, Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty held a news conference to discuss more details related to the case.
“I know there have been a lot of concerns about having to take the life of a person that is speech and hearing impaired, and that is also a concern to us,” Chief Citty said.
Citty says that both officers were in full uniform and their patrol cars were parked in front of Sanchez’s home, adding that it would be almost impossible for Sanchez to not realize that they were police officers.
Citty says Sanchez’s father was also in the front yard, but he does not speak English so he didn’t understand the officers’ commands either.
“Those are some huge challenges in our community because not all of our officers are bilingual. It’s impossible to be. So whether or not they can’t speak English or unable to hear, that presents the same problem. The commands would not have been understood or heard either way. So that’s a challenge, but at the same time, the officers are dressed the way they are so they are identifiable. It’s almost impossible for them not to know in this instance that they are police officers,” Citty said.
So far, Citty says that homicide investigators have interviewed nine witnesses and Sanchez’s father.
Investigators say witnesses at nearby homes were yelling at officers that Sanchez “couldn’t hear.”
Capt. Bo Mathews says he isn’t sure if the officers even heard the witnesses or could make out what they were saying at the time, and Chief Citty says that the situation may have progressed so quickly they didn’t have time to register what they were trying to say.
Citty says that while the investigation continues, the department will continue to look at ways to improve.
He says he has already requested a meeting with leaders in the deaf community to see if additional training would be beneficial.
However, Citty says that officers already go through a lot of training regarding how to handle people with mental illnesses, who do not speak English and who are under the influence of drugs.
Chief Citty says he knows there are concerns about the shooting, and gave his condolences to the Sanchez family.
“Any way around it, it is tragic,” Citty said.
Authorities say Sgt. Barnes was placed on paid administrative leave as the investigation into the shooting continues.
The ACLU of Oklahoma released the following statement regarding the shooting:
“We are incredibly saddened and disturbed by the news that an Oklahoma City police officer shot and killed Magdiel Sanchez, a deaf man confronted on his own porch. Merely failing to follow commands is an unacceptable defense for the use of lethal force. We have allowed a dangerous culture of “us vs. them” to fester among our law enforcement professionals. This killing speaks directly to a warrior culture in which the very people police officers are sworn to protect come to be viewed as the enemy. This culture assumes that an officer’s command, regardless of validity, is more important and more valuable than a human life.
As the department and the district attorney make determinations on whether or not this killing was justified, we as a society must weigh a bigger question–are our officers truly equipped and qualified to serve as a protective force? Evidence is mounting daily that too often many of our officers are more interested in power than in protection,” said Allie Shinn, director of external affairs for the ACLU of Oklahoma. “Magdiel Sanchez was shot at his own home, without having committed any crime, and in front of neighbors who knew he was deaf trying to communicate to the police that what they were about to do was wrong. Magdiel Sanchez should be alive today.”