OKLAHOMA CITY – An Oklahoma City police sergeant is on paid administrative leave after he shot and killed a deaf man Tuesday night on the city’s southeast side.
Police confirmed at a press conference Wednesday that residents yelled at the officers, trying to warn them that the man, 35-year-old Magdiel Sanchez, couldn’t hear their commands. Whether or not the officers heard them is not clear.
It happened at 8:15 p.m. at a home in the 200 block of S.E. 57th Street where police went to investigate a hit-and-run accident, according to KFOR. A witness had told them the car involved had just pulled up.
When officers arrived, they found Sanchez on the front porch holding a two-foot pipe, according to police. They said he advanced on the two officers there and did not respond to commands to drop the weapon.
Both officers fired at the same time – Lt. Matthew Lindsey deployed his taser, while Sgt. Christopher Barnes shot his firearm.
Sanchez was pronounced dead at 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.
Rayos said Sanchez had never been aggressive toward anyone and he believes the officers misunderstood his actions.
“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. And, he was actually I believe he was trying to, he was frustrated trying to tell them what was going on,” Rayos said.
Rayos said Sanchez was mentally disabled, as well. He said he did not work and lived in the home with his parents and grandparents.
Police said it’s unclear if the officers heard what the neighbors were yelling at them.
“You could get what they call tunnel vision, or you could really lock into just the person that has the weapon that would be the threat against you. Again, I don’t know exactly what the officers were thinking at that point because I was not there but they very well could not have heard everybody yelling,” said Capt. Bo Matthews.
“I believe they did hear me because one of them turned around and looked at me,” said Rayos, who’s still upset over what he witnessed.
“I didn’t sleep all night. So, it’s sad, especially a guy that you see every day. You see him. He walks up and down the street every day. He waves hi to everybody. He was a real nice guy,” Rayos said. “I don’t think he deserved to die like that.”
Police said Sanchez’s father turned out to be the suspect in the hit-and-run accident they were investigating. Rayos told KFOR Sanchez’s dad left the scene of the accident because he did not have a driver’s license.
Barnes is on paid administrative leave while the homicide unit investigates the shooting.
The findings will be turned over to the district attorney who will determine if the shooting was justified.
Neither of the officers involved in the incident were wearing body cameras.