An off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer opened fire Friday night inside a Southern California Costco, killing a man who authorities say had attacked him and wounding two others, the Corona Police Department said. The slain man's family says he was mentally disabled.
Kenneth French, 32, of Riverside assaulted the officer "without provocation" as he held his young child, the department said in a statement Saturday. The officer fired his gun, hitting French, the department said. Two of his family members were also struck by bullets and were in critical condition.
The officer was the only person who fired shots in the store, police said. The child was not injured in the incident, and the officer was taken to a local hospital and subsequently released, police said. The officer's identity has not been released.
French’s cousin, Rick Shureih, told NBC Los Angeles Sunday that French had a mental disability and described him as a "gentle giant." Shureih said that French was non-verbal, non-violent and had no previous encounters with police.
"He's not the kind to trade words, so I don't believe that a verbal confrontation happened," Shureih told The Associated Press.
Shureih also identified the two other people injured in the shooting as French’s parents, Russell and Paola French, who monitored and took care of their son. They remained in the hospital Sunday, with Russell doing much better, Shureih said. Authorities have not released their names.
The shooting prompted a stampede of frightened shoppers to flee the warehouse store and seek cover inside.
Witnesses reported seeing an argument between two people near a freezer section when shots rang out at least six times.
Shoppers and employees described terror and chaos as police swarmed the store.
Shrieks from inside the store were heard on video recorded by shopper Nikki Tate, who had stopped by with her daughter to pick up steaks and lobsters for Father's Day.
Tate told the AP Saturday she was by the meat section when she heard "about six or seven shots." She dropped to the ground and crawled toward her daughter who was at the other end. They huddled until they were able to escape through a side door.
"I saw people and heard shots and my first thought was 'Jesus, is this another mass shooting?'" she said. "I didn't know if this was a random thing or a domestic thing or if this was a mass shooting. Everything was happening so fast, I just wanted to get me and my kid to safety."
In the video, her daughter says, "Mommy, we need to go."
Multiple law enforcement agencies were investigating the shooting, including the Los Angeles Police Department.
If you witnessed this incident and have not provided your statement to the police, please contact Lieutenant Newman at 951-817-5788 or email Robert.Newman@CoronaCA.gov.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.