Police officers fatally shot Magdiel Sanchez, 35, who is deaf, outside of his home in Oklahoma City, OK, on Tuesday night. When authorities arrived at Sanchez’s home investigating a hit-and-run, they found him on the porch carrying a metal walking stick. With little warning and as neighbors looked on shouting that he couldn’t hear them because he was deaf, one officer fired multiple shots at Sanchez.
The Associated Press reported that police officers Sgt. Chris Barnes and Lt. Matthew Lindsey arrived at Sanchez’s home after a car parked in the driveway matched the description of a vehicle involved in a hit-and-run near the neighborhood. However, Sanchez was not in the car when the accident occurred, his father was driving and had fled the scene of a collision that did not involve another person.
Officers apparently considered Sanchez’s walking stick, which the Oklahoma City Police Department first described as a stick and later a metal pipe, a weapon. Several neighbors yelled “he can’t hear you” as police officers demanded that Sanchez drop the so-called weapon. As Sanchez walked towards them, Barnes fired multiple shots at him and Lindsay fired his Taser. Both officers weren’t wearing body cameras.
One witness, Jolie Guebara, later said that Sanchez carried the stick when he walked at night. “He always had a stick that he would walk around with, because there’s a lot of stray dogs,” Guebara told the AP, adding that she heard five or six shots.
Julio Rayos, another witness, told The Oklahoman that Sanchez couldn’t hear and had difficulty communicating:
Rayos said Sanchez also had developmental disabilities and was non-verbal. “The guy does movements,” Rayos said. “He don’t speak, he don’t hear, mainly it is hand movements. That’s how he communicates. I believe he was frustrated trying to tell them what was going on.”
Guebara also said that Sanchez used a notepad to communicate with people in the neighborhood. In a press conference on Wednesday morning, Police Capt. Bo Mathews said that the responding officers couldn’t hear Sanchez’s neighbors horrified shouts. Barnes, an 8-year veteran, has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation. The case is being investigated as a homicide.