Family of deaf man shot by police call for investigation by state attorney general's office
Attorneys representing the family of a deaf and developmentally disabled man shot and killed last month by an Oklahoma City police officer have called for the Oklahoma attorney general's office to take over the investigation.
In a Sept. 29 letter addressed to Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, attorney Melvin C. Hall said the investigation should not be handled by the Oklahoma City Police Department due to “premature and factually baseless comments” made by Chief Bill Citty.
Hall took issue with Citty claiming in a news conference two days after the shooting that Sgt. Christopher Barnes, the officer who shot Magdiel Sanchez, had “tunnel vision” and could not hear multiple witnesses saying Sanchez was deaf.
“How could Citty possibly know what Barnes heard if OKCPD, according to Citty himself, had not spoken with Barnes at the time of the press conference?” Hall wrote.
Hall also took issue with Citty saying that Sanchez “had to be aware” that Barnes was an Oklahoma City officer, but questioned how Citty could know what Sanchez, “a developmentally impaired man, knew at the time of the shooting.”
“How can there be a fair and impartial investigation, when the head of the agency doing the investigation publicly and irresponsibly interjects pure speculation just hours after the investigation begins?” Hall wrote.
Terri Watkins, spokeswoman for the attorney general's office, said they had not received the letter from Hall and attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons as of Monday morning.
Sanchez was shot and killed about 8:15 p.m. Sept. 19 after police investigating a hit-and-run incident came to the home he shared with his father, who was involved in the wreck.
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First to respond to the home in the 220 block of SE 57 was Lt. Matthew Lindsey, a 13-year veteran, who reported that Sanchez was on the porch with what was described as a two-foot length of pipe in his right hand.
Lindsey called for backup and Barnes, an eight-year veteran, arrived soon after.
Both officers reportedly commanded Sanchez to drop the pipe, which his family later characterized as his “trusted walking stick.”
At Citty's press conference, the chief said that Lindsey had fired his Taser at Sanchez, but it failed after only one prong connected, and that Barnes fired his handgun while Sanchez was about 15 feet away.
Witnesses gathered near the home at the time of the shooting yelled at officers that Sanchez was deaf. Some witnesses also said the two officers fired almost simultaneously, but Citty said it was unclear who fired first.
“They were both fired probably close together, at least," Citty said. “Which one fired first I don't know at this point. We may never know …”
Neither officer wore a body camera.
The family's attorneys last week called for an independent investigation into the shooting by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Justice. In an interview Monday, Hall said he was no longer requesting a Justice Department investigation.
Jessica Brown, spokeswoman for OSBI, said agents have not been called to investigate as of Monday afternoon.
“By law we can only be requested by certain entities, such as law enforcement, the attorney general, the district attorney's office, those types of organizations," Brown said. "We can't be requested by an attorney or by anybody just in the public."
Hall also said that it is too early to know whether they expect to file a lawsuit against the city.
“That's not even on the table at this time," Hall said. "The police department has not concluded its investigation. The medical examiner's office has not issued its report. And the district attorney's office has not made any determination regarding the shooting. Those three matters need to be resolved before any decision is made."
Hall said the family is making preparations for Sanchez's remains. The burial will either be in El Paso, Texas, or in Mexico, he said.
Citty said the department would cooperate fully if a decision is made to hand over the investigation to another agency.
“I'm confident that we've done a good job. We'll do a good job when we follow up investigating," Citty said. "The system is the way it is, so they have the ability to file a lawsuit. They have the ability to call DOJ. ... They have the right to do all of that and we'll cooperate and respond appropriately.”
Citty also met with representatives from the Oklahoma Association for the Deaf and agreed to work with the organization to develop additional training for officers on how to interact with people who are deaf or hard of hearing.