OKLAHOMA CITY – A spokesman for the family of a deaf man who was fatally shot by an Oklahoma City police officer has hired an attorney who also represented the family of a black man who was killed by a white Tulsa police officer.
Tuesday, Madgiel Sanchez, 35, was shot on his front porch after two officers went to the home to check on a hit-and-run involving Sanchez’s father.
When they got to the home, they were greeted by Sanchez’s father, who didn’t speak English, and Sanchez, who was holding a metal pipe.
“It was designed to be a weapon, it was a fairly large weapon,” said Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty.
Authorities say Lt. Matthew Lindsey and Sgt. Christopher Barnes ordered Sanchez to drop the weapon and get on the ground, but he continued to move toward them.
That’s when Lt. Lindsey deployed his taser and Sgt. Barnes shot his firearm. Police say the taser did not connect.
Sanchez was shot and pronounced dead the scene.
Several neighbors said they witnessed the whole thing and were yelling at the police not to shoot because Sanchez is deaf and did not understand their commands.
“Myself and my daughter were actually screaming at him not, you know, that he was deaf, that he couldn’t hear anything. And, they proceeded on shooting him,” said Julio Rayos, who lives just down the street.
Investigators say they learned after the shooting that Sanchez was deaf and could not hear their commands.
Police said it’s unclear if the officers heard what the neighbors were yelling at them.
Neither of the officers were wearing body cameras. Officials say they don’t have enough cameras and the grant to get more was put on hold as the FOP worked on new procedures.
Investigators have interviewed nine witnesses, including Lt. Lindsey but have yet to question Sgt. Barnes, the alleged shooter.
“Our process is we don’t interview the officers for 48 hours,” said Citty.
Citty said Sgt. Barnes has the same rights as a civilian.
“If it’s a criminal investigation, a police officer does have the right to not speak, have an attorney present, speak with an attorney, you know, they can choose the time when they want to be interviewed,” Citty said.
Citty said the biggest challenge many hope the department can learn from is communicating with those who can’t speak English.
“I’m open. I have made contact with the Oklahoma Association for the Deaf and requested a meeting to have some of those discussions,” he said.
The family spokesman, Julio Rayos, told The Associated Press on Thursday that the family of 35-year-old Magdiel Sanchez has hired Melvin C. Hall. The website for the Oklahoma City attorney’s law firm says he specializes in employment law and civil rights cases.
Hall also represented the family of 40-year-old Terence Crutcher, who was fatally shot in September 2016 by Tulsa police officer Betty Jo Shelby after she encountered the unarmed man in a roadway.
Shelby was acquitted of first-degree manslaughter in Crutcher’s death. Crutcher’s family has filed a lawsuit over his death.