No Charges Filed In Fatal Police Shooting Of Deaf Man

Dec 8, 2017

Editor's Note - This post was updated at 5:45 PM.


District Attorney David Prater announced Friday that Sgt. Christopher Barnes of the Oklahoma City Police Department will not be charged in the Sept. 19 fatal shooting of Magdiel Sanchez.

"I have determined that Lt. Lindsay and Officer Barns's actions were lawful, reasonable and not excessive," Prater said. "At the moment officer Barns discharges his pistol he was acting in self defense, and in my opinion, had no other reasonable option to prevent Mr. Sanchez from injuring him or killing him."

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater shows media a two foot long pipe Magdiel Sanchez had in his hand when he was killed by police. Prater described the metal pipe as threaded gas pipe wrapped in athletic tape.
Credit Storme Jones / KGOU


The District Attorney released video from a neighbor's security camera that shows Sanchez chasing a passing police car with a pipe in his hand.

Prater says the officer who shot Sanchez five times was backing up as Sanchez approached him with the pipe. Prater says he was trapped against a vehicle when he shot Sanchez. Another officer deployed a taser at the same time.


An investigation of a hit-and-run led police to the Sanchez residence in the 200 block of SE 57 Street where officers discovered 34-year-old Sanchez on his front porch.

Lt. Matthew Lindsey was the first to arrive and noticed what police described as a two-foot metal pipe in Sanchez’s hand. Lindsey called for backup. Sgt. Barnes arrived shortly after. He had been on the force 8 years.

Neighbors say they tried to tell the officers that Sanchez was deaf and unable to comply with their commands because he could not hear them.

Julio Rayos lives a few houses away from where the incident happened. He told the New York Times, “They seemed like they just came to shoot him,” he said. “It happened so quickly.”

Police spokesman Capt. Bo Matthews said the two officers told Sanchez to drop the pipe. Neighbors claim Sanchez always had the pipe with him to shoo off neighborhood dogs and help him communicate with others.

Lindsey had a taser, Barnes a handgun. Oklahoma CIty Police Department policy recommends that if one officer has a non-lethal weapon, another officer provides “cover” with a lethal weapon.  

Oklahoma City Police Capt. Bo Mathews gestures as he answers a question during a news conference in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. Mathews said that Oklahoma City police officers who opened fire on a man who was approaching them holding a metal pipe didn't hear witnesses yelling that the man was deaf.
Credit Sue Ogrocki / AP Photo

Matthews says Sanchez began walking toward officers with the pipe still in his hand. Witnesses, say they were still telling officers that Sanchez could not hear, and the taser and handgun were shot simultaneously. Police say the taser malfunctioned.

Mathews says Sanchez was 15 feet away from officers when they opened fire. There is no body camera footage of the incident.

A medical examiner’s report shows a taser probe stuck Sanchez in the left thigh. He was shot five times in the torso and left upper arm.

The Oklahoma City Homicide Unit conducted a standard investigation into the officer-involved shooting. The investigation sparked questions from lawyers for the Sanchez family. The family questioned the department’s ability to conduct a fair investigation into one of their fellow officers.


Civil rights leaders and advocates for the deaf march from city hall to the Oklahoma City police station on September 24, 2017.
Credit Storme Jones / KGOU

Civil rights leaders and advocates for the deaf community rallied in downtown Oklahoma City a the weekend following the shooting on Sunday, Sep. 24. The Sanchez family joined protesters in marching from city hall to police headquarters. Speakers called for an independent investigation.

In the days following the shooting, legal representation for the Sanchez family sent letters to the U.S. Attorney’s office, the Oklahoma Attorney General, and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, requesting another agency take over the investigation.


Attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons addresses media at an Oklahoma City park as he stands next to family of Magdiel Sanchez on Sept. 30, 2017
Credit Storme Jones / KGOU

“Because we don’t believe the Oklahoma City Police Department, who’s already come out publicly and tried to taint the investigation by saying they knew what Magdiel understood, by stating that their officers didn’t hear the witnesses. How do they know that?” Damario Solomon-Simmons, a lawyer for the Sanchez’s family, said Saturday, Sept. 30 press conference at an Oklahoma City Park


Sanchez was an immigrant from Mexico. Oscar Cervantes from the Mexican Consulate's Protection and Legal Services division from Little Rock, Arkansas appeared with family members and lawyers for the Sanchez family at the press conference. Cervantes said his office was watching the investigation and trusted it would be carried out with integrity.

The Oklahoma City Homicide Unit completed its criminal investigation late October. The District Attorney’s office reviewed the case for nearly two months before Friday’s announcement.