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New details in deaf shooting in Oklahoma

24 September 2017

Oklahoma City police officers who opened fire on a man in front of his home as he approached them holding a metal pipe didn't hear witnesses yelling that he was deaf, a department official said Wednesday.

"In those situations, very volatile situations, you have a weapon out, you can get what they call tunnel vision", Cpt Mathews said, adding that Sanchez was about 15 ft (4.5m) away when both officers fired their weapons simultaneously. Rayos told the paper that Sanchez had developmental disabilities and didn't talk.

They said he advanced on the two officers there and did not respond to commands to drop the weapon.

"If you can't hear or you can't speak and you ascertain that, then. obviously, officers have to be more patient and get interpreters out and provide them with interpreters because they have a right to know what they're being arrested for or questioned, by having an interpreter", he said.

It was unclear how many witnesses saw the incident, but Mathews said investigators have interviewed "quite a few".

The two officers are white and Sanchez was Hispanic, Mathews said.

"Again, 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 everybody yelling around them", he said. He said it's possible Barnes wasn't equipped with a Taser. He said Sanchez wasn't in the vehicle when his father struck something and drove off.

The family also accuses Oklahoma City police Chief Bill Citty of rushing to release information before an investigation is complete in an attempt to 'taint the investigation in his officer's favor'.

A neighbor, Julio Rayos, told CNN affiliate KFOR Sanchez was deaf and nonverbal and would communicate with hand movements. So, mainly, it's hand movements that he does. "That's how he communicates", Rayos told the newspaper. "And he was actually - I believe he was trying to - he was frustrated trying to tell (the officers) what was going on".

Barnes is on paid administrative leave while the homicide unit investigates the shooting.

Police said it's unclear if the officers heard what the neighbors were yelling at them.

The 2ft (0.6m) pipe that Sanchez was holding as he sat on his porch was initially described to officers as a stick.

Law enforcement officers in Oklahoma have faced charges multiple times in recent years. He was sentenced to four years in prison.

Hall also represented the family of 40-year-old Terence Crutcher, who was fatally shot in September 2016 by Tulsa police officer Betty Jo Shelby after she encountered the unarmed man in a roadway. Much like in the Sanchez killing, another officer nearly simultaneously fired a Taser at Crutcher when Shelby fired her gun. Robert Bates, 74, was a volunteer with the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office when he killed Eric Harris during a sting operation in April 2015.

New details in deaf shooting in Oklahoma