Magdiel Sanchez, 35, was approached by officers who were investigating a hit-and-run near his home in Oklahoma City on Tuesday night.
Sanchez, who suffered a developmental disability and could only communicate with hand gestures, wasn’t obeying the officers’ commands.
In response, the two officers opened fire simultaneously – one with his gun, and the other with a Taser.
Sanchez, who had no criminal history, died at the scene.
He said the officers felt threatened because Sanchez was holding a stick, which had a leather loop attached to the end to fit around his wrist.
Mathews said that he didn’t know how many shots were fired, but it was more than one. He added that although the force has sign-language trained officers, he wasn’t sure if that included Barnes or his colleague.
The officer who fired the gun, Sgt Chris Barnes, has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.
When asked why Barnes used a gun instead of a Taser, Mathews replied that he didn’t know. Neither officer had a body camera.
It was actually Sanchez’s father who had hit something earlier and driven off, and his son Magdiel wasn’t in the car. It was an object that he hit, not a person.
Sanchez’s dad confirmed that his son was deaf.
Julio Rayos, a neighbour who saw the shooting, told The Oklahoman that Sanchez was developmentally disabled, couldn’t speak and was deaf.
‘He don’t speak, he don’t hear, mainly it is hand movements,’ Rayos said. ‘That’s how he communicates. I believe he was frustrated trying to tell them what was going on.’
Jolie Guebara, who lives two houses down from Sanchez, added that she heard five or six gunshots before she looked outside and saw the police.
‘[Sanchez] always had a stick that he would walk around with, because there are a lot of stray dogs,’ she said.