Witnesses who saw an Oklahoma City cop shoot and kill a deaf man holding a metal pipe Tuesday night said they repeatedly shouted at the officers before the fatal shot was fired that the man couldn’t hear the cops’ commands.
Magdiel Sanchez, 35, was tasered and shot to death outside his house by Lt. Matthew Lindsey and Sgt. Chris Barnes while they were responding to a hit-and-run crash, Oklahoma City police Capt. Bo Mathews said at a news conference on Wednesday. Julio Rayos, who witnessed the shooting, told The Oklahoman there were several people attempting to tell the cops Sanchez was deaf.
“We were screaming that he can’t hear,” Rayos recalled. “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.”
A neighbor, who did not want to be identified, also told FOX25 Oklahoma City she and her daughter “were actually screaming at them…that he was deaf, that he couldn’t hear anything.”
Mathews said the officers didn’t hear the neighbors yelling before Barnes fired his gun and he didn’t know what they were thinking in that instance.
“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,” Mathews said.
Lindsey arrived at the scene first to find Sanchez with a pipe, about 2 feet long with a leather loop to tie around a wrist. Sanchez got up from a porch and started walking toward Lindsey, who called Barnes for backup. Both officers demanded the deaf man put the pipe down until Lindsey deployed his taser and Barnes fired his gun, Mathews said.
Sanchez had nothing to do with the crash Lindsey and Barnes were responding to. Sanchez’s father, who was a driver involved in the hit-and-run crash, told police his son wasn’t in the car.
Jolie Guebara, who lives two houses from the shooting scene, also said the pipe the officers deemed as a weapon was an item Sanchez often held. They initially said it was a stick.
“He always had a stick that he would walk around with, because there’s a lot of stray dogs,” Guebara said, adding his neighbor wrote notes to communicate.
Guebara said she heard five or six gunshots, though it’s unclear how many times Barnes fired his gun. Barnes, who has worked for the police department for eight years, was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation. Neither officer wore a body camera at the time of the shooting.
Rayos said Sanchez lived in the neighborhood with his family for five years.
“I don’t think they had to shoot him,” he said.
Oklahoma City has been marred by controversial police-involved killings in recent years. A white Tulsa County reserve deputy was sentenced to four years in prison after he shot and killed an unarmed black man who was on the ground being subdued. The deputy said he had mistaken his gun for his taser.
In May, a white former Tulsa police officer, Betty Shelby, was acquitted in the 2016 killing of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man who had his hands up when she fired. Much like in the Sanchez killing, another officer almost simultaneously fired a Taser at Crutcher when Shelby fired her gun.
Unlike Sanchez’s killing, both Tulsa killings were captured on video.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.