An Oklahoma City police officer shot and killed a deaf man who was holding a metal pipe on Tuesday night, authorities said.
According to police spokesman Capt. Bo Mathews, neighbors told Sgt. Chris Barnes that 35-year-old Magdiel Sanchez could not hear his commands. It remains unclear whether Barnes heard those warnings before discharging his weapon multiple times.
Barnes and Lt. Matthew Lindsey went to Sanchez’s home to investigate a hit-and-run that had occurred earlier in the evening, Mathews said. Sanchez’s father was allegedly the driver of the car that fled the scene.
The two officers found Sanchez, who did not have a criminal record and was not involved in the hit-and-run, on the porch of the house holding a 2-foot-long metal pipe. The pipe had a small loop on one end, which is meant to be worn around the wrist, NBC reported. A neighbor told The Associated Press that Sanchez often carried the pipe to scare off the neighborhood’s many stray dogs.
When Sanchez approached, the officers ordered him to drop the pipe and “get on the ground,” Mathews said. Sanchez allegedly did not follow their commands and continued to move towards them.
Hearing the commotion, witnesses began yelling at the cops, telling them about Sanchez’s hearing disability.
“He can’t hear you,” they shouted, per Mathews.
Neighbors told KOCO 5 News that Sanchez was deaf and nonverbal.
When Sanchez got within 15 feet of the officers, Barnes fired his gun and Lindsey deployed his Taser. Mathews said Barnes discharged his firearm more than once. A witness told AP she heard “five or six gunshots.”
Sanchez was later pronounced dead at the scene.
“They killed an innocent man,” neighbor Julio Rayos told KOCO. “He was never aggressive to nobody. He was a real nice guy. I don’t think he deserved to die like that.”
The shooting is being investigated as a homicide, and Barnes has been placed on paid administrative leave.
Mathews said he wasn’t sure why the officers had not taken heed of the neighbors’ shouts about Sanchez’s disability, but said “tunnel vision” may have prevented them from processing the warnings.
“In those situations, very volatile situations, you have a weapon out, you can get what they call tunnel vision, or you can really lock into 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.”
The Oklahoma City Police Department is in the process of obtaining body cameras for its officers, NBC News reported. Neither Barnes nor Lindsey was wearing one at the time of Sanchez’s shooting.
This article has been updated throughout with new details about the shooting. Initial reports said Sanchez was holding a “stick” when he was shot, but Mathews said it was a metal pipe.