Neighbors yelled “he can’t hear you!” But the two officers kept shouting commands.
Sgt. Christopher Barnes and Lt. Matthew Lindsey ordered Magdiel Sanchez to drop a two-foot-long metal pipe. Instead, the 35-year-old stepped from the porch of the single-story house in suburban Oklahoma City, apparently oblivious to the shouts.
With about 15 feet of distance between them, both officers discharged their weapons — one a gun, the other a taser. Sanchez was pronounced dead at the scene Tuesday night.
The uniformed officers arrived at the address looking for the driver of a hit-and-run incident nearby. Sanchez was the son of the driver they were looking for. What they did not seem to know was that he was deaf.
This was the account Oklahoma City Police Capt. Bo Mathews gave to reporters at a news conference Wednesday. He also said that Sanchez’s father, who was not named, was at the scene.
Barnes, who fired the gun, was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into the shooting. Neither officer was wearing a body camera and Sanchez had no apparent criminal history, Mathews said.
“In those situations, very volatile situations, you have a weapon out, you can get what they call tunnel vision, or you can really lock into just the person that has the weapon that’d be the threat against you,” Mathews said. “I don’t know exactly what the officers were thinking at that point.”
After the reported hit-and-run accident Tuesday, a witness gave Lindsey the address where the departed vehicle was heading, about a block away from the scene of the crash. Lindsey went there and saw Sanchez on the porch with the two-foot-long metal pipe covered in material and a leather loop at the end that police said fit around a wrist.
Lindsey called for backup, Mathews said. Barnes arrived and the officers commanded Sanchez to drop the pipe. There are officers trained in sign language, Mathews said, but he was not sure if that included the officers at Tuesday’s scene.
As the incident unfolded, neighbor Julio Rayos stood about 25 to 30 feet away with his wife and daughter. They were yelling at the officers not to shoot Sanchez and that he was deaf, Rayos told NewsOK Tuesday.
Sanchez also had developmental disabilities and was nonverbal, so he communicated mostly with his hands, Rayos said.
“The guy does movements. He don’t speak, he don’t hear, so mainly it’s hand movements that he does. That’s how we communicated with him,” Rayos said. “I believe he was frustrated, trying to tell them what was going on.”
At one point Sanchez struck the back of his truck. Rayos believes Sanchez was trying to communicate in the midst of the hectic scene. That’s when Rayos knew something was about to happen. The officers already had their weapons drawn, he said.
Both officers told Sanchez to drop his weapon, Matthews said. But he continued toward them, he said, until they used the firearm and taser at the same time.
Neighbor Jolie Guebara lives two houses down from the scene and heard five or six gunshots before she looked outside and saw the police, she told the Associated Press.
Whenever she and her husband were outside, Sanchez would sometimes stop by and write notes to communicate with them.
“He always had a stick that he would walk around with, because there’s a lot of stray dogs,” Guebara told the AP.
Sanchez is one of 712 people that have been shot and killed by police in 2017, according to The Washington Post’s Fatal Force database. And there have been other controversial officer-involved fatal shootings in Oklahoma recently.
In 2016, Terence Crutcher, an unarmed 40-year-old black man and father of four, was walking toward his car with his hands above his head, when moments later white former Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby fatally shot him in 2016. Shelby was acquitted in May.
More from Morning Mix