Police in Oklahoma City fatally shot a deaf man Tuesday night who they say was advancing toward them with a metal pipe as witnesses yelled that the man was deaf and could not hear them.
It’s the fifth officer-involved shooting in the city this year, according to the Oklahoma City Police Department.
Officers were responding to a hit-and-run accident around 8:15 p.m., Capt. Bo Mathews, the police department’s public information officer, told reporters Wednesday. A witness of the accident told police a vehicle involved went to a nearby address.
Lt. Matthew Lindsey arrived at the address and encountered 35-year-old Magdiel Sanchez on the porch, who was holding in his right hand a 2-foot metal pipe with a leather loop. Lindsey called for backup and Sgt. Christopher Barnes arrived.
Police ordered Sanchez to drop the weapon and get on the ground, Mathews said. Both officers had weapons drawn — Lindsey had a Taser and Barnes a gun. Sanchez came off the porch and was walking toward Barnes.
“The witnesses also were yelling that this person, Mr. Sanchez, was deaf and could not hear. The officers didn’t know this at the time,” Mathews said.
Both officers fired their weapons at the same time when Sanchez was about 15 feet away from them; more than one shot was fired, the police captain said.
Emergency Medical Services Authority personnel pronounced Sanchez dead at the scene.
“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,” Mathews told reporters.
“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.”
Neighbor Jolie Guebara told The Associated Press that Sanchez “always had a stick that he would walk around with, because there’s a lot of stray dogs.”
She heard five or six gunshots before seeing police outside, she told the AP. She lives two houses from where the shooting happened.
Barnes is being placed on paid administrative leave.
It’s being investigated by the department’s homicide unit as a criminal case, as all officer-involved shootings are, Mathews said. The investigators will provide their findings to the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s office, who will decide if the shooting was justified. Then the police department’s internal affairs will investigate.
Some of the department’s officers wear body cameras, but neither of the two police at the scene were wearing them at the time.
Sanchez had “no criminal history that I could locate,” Mathews said. The car involved in the hit-and-run was driven by Sanchez’s father and Magdiel Sanchez was not in the car at the time.
The two officers are white and Sanchez was Hispanic, Mathews said.
Protests over police shootings, especially of black men, have been ongoing around the country since 2014. Sanchez is the 712th person to be shot and killed by police in the U.S. so far this year