[dropcap]P[/dropcap]olice in Oklahoma came under intense scrutiny Thursday for fatally shooting a deaf man who failed to respond to their commands, even as neighbours were alerting officers of the man’s disability.
Neighbours said they were trying to intervene by yelling “he can’t hear you,” to prevent the Tuesday night shooting outside Sanchez’s home, but police did not heed their warnings.
Officers went to the Oklahoma City home of Magdiel Sanchez looking for his father, who was involved in a hit-and-run car accident. They instead killed the 35-year-old who could neither hear nor speak, according to witnesses.
“As the police pulled up, we was all… screaming at the cops not to shoot,” neighbour Julio Rayos told reporters.
Oklahoma’s deaf community questioned the police use of deadly force, while the American Civil Liberties Union offered a scathing rebuke Thursday.
“Magdiel Sanchez was shot at his own home, without having committed any crime,” said the ACLU’s Allie Shinn. “Merely failing to follow commands is an unacceptable defence for the use of lethal force.”
During the confrontation, Sanchez was holding in his right hand a two-foot metal pipe with a leather loop. Police said they believe the object was designed to be a weapon.
Sanchez did not respond to officers’ commands to drop the pipe, and Lieutenant Matthew Lindsey fired a Taser while Sergeant Christopher Barnes fired his gun. Sanchez died at the scene.
Police could not say why the officers fired different weapons, but not all members of the department have access to non-lethal Tasers.