Officer shoots, kills deaf man holding a pipe as neighbors yell ‘he can’t hear you’

A police officer in Oklahoma City shot and killed a deaf man who couldn’t hear commands to drop a metal pipe.

Oklahoma City Police Captain Bo Matthews said Wednesday at a press conference that Sgt. Christopher Barnes didn’t hear witnesses yelling “he can’t hear you” before opening fire on 35-year-old Magdiel Sanchez.

Oklahoma City Police Lt. Matthew Lindsey was investigating a hit-and-run Tuesday around 8:15 p.m. A neighbor and witness, Julio Rayos, told The Oklahoman that Sanchez’s father was the man who was driving a green pickup truck that was involved in the hit-and-run accident. The other driver called police and that’s when Lindsey pulled up to the Sanchez home.

Police initially believed Sanchez was holding a large stick, but later discovered it was a two-foot metal pipe “wrapped in some type of material” with “a little leather loop like maybe you could put it around your wrist,” Matthews said.

“He had this on his right hand and was holding it up,” he said.

When Lindsey saw Sanchez, he called for backup and Barnes arrived. Rayos said he thinks Sanchez was upset about the car accident.

“The guy does movements,” Rayos said of Sanchez, who was disabled. “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.”

Rayos said Lindsey drew his Taser and Barnes drew his firearm as soon as they got out of their vehicles. Sanchez walked towards them and they told him to drop the weapon. An unnamed neighbor said he yelled out, “he’s deaf!”

“The instant I said that, just right after that, it was bang, bang bang,” the man said.

“Myself and my daughter were actually screaming at him, ya know, that he was deaf, he couldn’t hear anything. And they proceeded on shooting him,” Rayos said.

Asked whether the officers could hear him, Rayos said “I believe they did hear me cuz one of them turned around and looked at me.” He said he was about 25 or 30 feet from officers when he yelled out to them, and that about 30 seconds elapsed from the time he yelled to the time they opened fire.

According to Matthews, Sanchez was about 15 feet away from the officers when they discharged their weapons, apparently at the same time. “The rounds did strike Mr. Sanchez … and he was pronounced deceased at the scene,” Matthews said.

He said he didn’t know how many rounds Barnes fired, but it was more than one. Neither of the officers were wearing body cameras at the time of the incident.

“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. “I don’t know exactly what the officers were thinking at that point.”

Barnes has been placed on administrative leave. Rayos said the Sanchez family is planning to hire an attorney. He said he thinks the officers could have handled the situation differently.

“I don’t think they had to shoot him,” he said.