A police-involved shooting is under investigation in Oklahoma City after an officer fatally shot an unresponsive man as witnesses yelled he was deaf.
Magdiel Sanchez, 35, was pronounced dead at the scene on Tuesday night, making it the fifth officer-involved shooting in Oklahoma City this year, according to the police department. The two officers involved are white, and Sanchez was Hispanic.
According to Capt. Bo Mathews, the department’s public information officer, via NPR, the shooting happened amid a response to a hit-and-run accident. Lt. Matthew Lindsey arrived at a nearby residential address after a witness said that’s where an involved vehicle had gone.
There, Lindsey found Sanchez on the porch holding a 2-foot metal pipe with a leather loop and called Sgt. Christopher Barnes for backup. Police ordered Sanchez to drop the pipe and get on the ground, but witnesses were yelling at the officers that Sanchez was deaf. Instead, Sanchez walked toward the officers, to which Lindsey fired a Taser and Barnes fired off more than one shot at Sanchez.
Witness Julio Rayos told the Oklahoman Sanchez can’t hear, nor does he speak, and typically communicated with hand movements. He also said he believed Sanchez was frustrated trying to tell them what was happening. A neighbor, Jolie Guebara, told the Associated Press that Sanchez always held the pipe to walk around the area because of stray dogs. However, Mathews speculated that the police didn’t hear warnings from witnesses because of “tunnel vision.”
“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 said. “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 shooting is being investigated by the department’s homicide unit as a criminal case, and Barnes has been placed on paid administrative leave. Findings will be presented to the local district attorney’s office to determine if the shooting was justified. As for the hit-and-run, the car involved was driven by Sanchez’s father.