A story out of Oklahoma City (not far from Tulsa, where officer Betty Shelby was recently acquitted in the death of Terrence Crutcher) has gone national as people demand answers about the officer-involved fatal shooting of Magdiel Sanchez. In this Associated Press video, OKC Police Captain Bo Mathews details the Tuesday night incident from the perspective of law enforcement.
Mathews explains that cops issued verbal commands for Sanchez to “get on the ground.” He also relays how witnesses shouted that Sanchez “could not hear,” but “the officers didn’t know this at the time.” Finally, Mathews alleges that Sanchez “advanced” towards two cops while holding a pipe, and the officers then “discharged their weapons.” Neither cop in this incident wore a body camera, but according to witnesses, neighbors screamed at police: “He can’t hear you!”
NBC News further reports that the incident began when Lt. Matthew Lindsey arrived at the Sanchez home per witness reports that Sanchez’s father was the driver in a reported hit-and-run. Lindsey observed Sanchez holding a pipe on the porch, so he called for backup, and Sgt. Christopher Barnes answered the call. With weapons drawn, they approached Sanchez (who had no criminal history and wasn’t in the vehicle during the hit-and-run). After Sanchez didn’t obey orders, Lindsay tased him while Barnes fatally shot him.
Speaking to NewsOK, Julio Ravos (who lived down the street from Sanchez), confirmed that he was shouting this warning at police along with several other neighbors. He said that Sanchez, who was developmentally disabled, not only could not hear but did not speak. Ravos believes that Sanchez was attempting to communicate nonverbally with cops:
“The guy does movements. 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.”
Capt. Mathews spoke with reporters and said that’s not immediately evident why officers didn’t hear witnesses screaming at them. However, Mathews said this could be a case of “tunnel vision” on the cops’ behalf:
“In those situations, very volatile situations, when 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. 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, you know, everybody yelling, everybody yelling around them.”
The incident is now under criminal investigation with the OKC police department’s homicide unit. Barnes, the cop who shot Sanchez, is on paid administrative leave while Lindsey, who tasered Sanchez, remains on duty.