Oklahoma Prosecutor Declines To Charge Officer Who Killed Deaf Man

Magdiel SanchezImage credit: GoFundMe Campaign

Witnesses to the shooting yelled that Magdiel Sanchez was deaf, but the officers said they didn't hear them.

The death of Magdiel Sanchez, a deaf and mentally disabled man shot by police in front of his home last September, will not result in charges against Sgt. Chris Barnes.

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said his investigation determined the Sept. 19 shooting death of Magdiel Sanchez outside his south Oklahoma City home was justified. After reviewing evidence, Prater said, the shooting was “lawful, reasonable and not excessive.”

The police opened fire - one with a taser, one with a gun - when Sanchez failed to follow their spoken orders and began walking toward them, carrying a metal pipe. The autopsy showed he was hit with the stun gun and shot five times.

Sanchez’s family has said he was completely deaf, developmentally disabled, and that he used the pipe as a walking stick. The autopsy found no drugs or alcohol in Sanchez’s system.

Immediately following the shooting, details emerged that witnesses were yelling to the officers that Sanchez was deaf, but ironically, the officers claimed they could not hear the yelling.

"In those situations, very volatile situations, you have a weapon out, you can get what they call tunnel vision, or you can really lock in to just the person that has the weapon that'd be the threat against you," [police Capt. Bo] Mathews said. "I don't know exactly what the officers were thinking at that point."

Oklahoma has seen a slew of fatal police shootings in recent years, most notably Tulsa officer Betty Shelby who was acquitted in the 2016 murder of unarmed Terence Crutcher, and a Tulsa County reserve deputy who accidentally shot a restrained suspect when he reached for his gun instead of his taser. That case resulted in a 4-year prison sentence.

The same prosecutor who declined to bring charges in the Sanchez case charged another Oklahoma City officer with second-degree murder earlier this week for the fatal shooting of a suicidal man in an unrelated case.