In Pursuit of Justice: Attorney General Bonta Files Felony Charges Against the Ex-LAPD Officer Who Shot and Killed Kenneth French and Critically Wounded His Parents

August 16, 2021

by Teresa Anderson, Director, Public Policy

First and foremost, I want the French family to know that we continue to hold them in our hearts and admire them greatly for their strength and persistence in pursuing justice for their son and family. In June 2019 Kenneth, a young man with disabilities, and his parents were shopping at Costco in Corona, California (Riverside County) when Kenneth was shot and killed by, then off-duty LAPD officer, Salvador Sanchez. Russell and Paola French, Kenneth’s parents, were also shot and critically wounded during the shooting. This senseless tragedy was made even worse when Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin announced that no charges would be brought against the off-duty officer based on a grand jury’s failure to indict. Hestrin issued a statement saying, in part, that “charges against the officer were not warranted.”  The disability community was outraged by such blatant disregard for the life of a young man with disabilities and complete lack of accountability for the officer who killed him. Kenneth was an unarmed young man with a disability who was shot in the back, and his parents were shot while trying to protect him…charges were more than warranted, they were expected.

Failure to hold this officer accountable sent shock waves through the community, moving advocates, families, loved ones, to organize protests, meet with elected officials, and demand a meeting with the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office to find out how the system could have failed this family and the community. Thank you to EVERYONE who wrote letters, signed onto letters, met with elected officials, went to the protest sites (Riverside County and the LAPD), and otherwise expressed your outrage at such a failure of justice. It is because of the strength and persistence of the French family, their loved ones, and the power of advocacy within the disability community that this shooting became so “high profile” that it led the Attorney General to step in and demand justice and accountability.

Historically, officer-involved shootings that result in the death of an unarmed person were investigated by local law enforcement and the District Attorneys. However, Assembly Bill 1506, which became effective July 1, 2021, created a mandate for an independent, statewide prosecutor to investigate and review officer-involved shootings of unarmed civilians, including assessing for potential criminal liability. The intent behind the law is to help build and maintain trust between law enforcement and the community. This is critically important to the disability community because research shows that between 30%-50% of officer-involved shootings involve a person with a disability.  The Attorney General’s (AG) decision to charge Mr. Sanchez came about after an independent review of proceedings at the local level and the belief that a crime was in fact committed. The AG’s statement can be read here:

We know building trust between the law enforcement community and the disability community will take time and be an on-going process, but we believe the AG stepping in to ensure accountability and justice for the French family is a step in the right direction.

UPDATE: Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) ACA Section 1557 Rule and Impacts on Transgender Californians with (and Without) Disabilities


On June 12, 2020 HHS announced changes to the Affordable Care Act’s section 1557 rule which excluded transgender patients from civil rights protections when accessing healthcare. We wrote about it here last week to draw attention to the need to protect the rights of the many transgender people with disabilities.

To clarify, the rights of transgender Californians are protected at the state level by a letter written by the Department of Managed Health Care and former Governor Brown. These crucial rights are also protected for Medi-Cal patients, in fact, Medi-Cal issued this statement following the HHS ruling, explicitly stating that they remain committed to serving all Medi-Cal patients regardless of gender identity or expression.

Nationally the threat to the rights of transgender people to access medical care under HHS’s rule still persists. Last week’s Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, finding that it is unlawful to discriminate against transgender people in the workplace was certainly a positive step. Yet there is still more to be done to ensure that all people with disabilities, including trans people, can access the healthcare they need.

Honoring Ed Roberts, One of The Greatest Civil Rights Activists

In 2010 Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into a law a bill by Senator Loni Hancock that declared January 23rd of every year Ed Roberts Day. Senate Bill 1256 Ed Roberts Day became law on July 19, 2010. The bill designated January 23rd (Ed’s Birthday) as “a date having special significance in public schools and educational institutions, and would encourage those entities t conduct suitable commemorative exercises.” The declarations in the bill highlight some of Mr. Roberts incredible civil rights advocacy efforts and accomplishments. Among the highlights was the protest at UC Berkeley led by the self-named “Rolling Quads” in which Mr. Roberts organized and led a group of students with disabilities to protest the loss of what little services they had at the time. This groups of students went on to advocate to major change on the campus that included accommodations and services and supports for students with disabilities such as removing physical barrier to access and providing personal attendant services so that students could live independently. Their efforts led to the creation of the Physically Disabled Student Program at UC Berkeley which was the first in the nation of it’s kind.

Last week my good friend Stephen Dale, and Board Member for The Arc of CA, sent an email to a small group that detailed his account of the first time he met Ed Roberts. I read it a few times and deeply appreciated Steve’s candor about how Ed had challenged everything he thought he knew about disability. Though I never had the privilege to meet Mr. Roberts his life’s work has certainly influenced much of the advocacy that continues today. I would like to thank Steve for sharing his memories with us as I truly appreciated the opportunity to learn more about the influence Mr. Roberts has had on many great advocates.

A tribute from Steve:

“Ed would share all sorts of stories about how the public either relates to persons with disabilities as objects, and at the other end of the spectrum as super-cripples with superior powers to compensate for their disabilities. This puts a lot of pressure on many persons with disabilities because they are expected to do aspirational feats to inspire others. The lesson in his stories is that persons with disabilities are just people in most cases with the same desires and the same weaknesses as anyone else. Like any other civil rights movement, we will conquer our racial prejudices when we all as a society relate to others as people and not by the color of their skin. Rights and opportunities that the non-disabled take for granted have yet to be achieved despite a lot of movement forward – there is much more to do. True disability rights will be achieved when we as a society see persons with disabilities as people – no better – no worse – than you or me. 

So in honor of Ed, please take some time and learn about his remarkable life. Ed Roberts Day is a good way to teach not only about disability rights, but more importantly about the value of relating to persons with disabilities as people, not as objects of our compassion.”

A Tribute to Marca Bristo

Although I never had the good fortune to meet Marca Bristo in person I admired her work and hold her to be among the greatest of civil rights advocates. Her accomplishments were many as she spent the better part of 40 years advocating, educating and fighting for the right of people with disabilities to be perceived and treated just as any other member of society. She founded Access Living in Chicago and from that went on to found the National Council on Independent Living. She was nominated by President Clinton as Chair of the National Council on Disability and then elected President of the United States International Council on Disabilities. Her work on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) led to changes in disability policy that would affect nearly every aspect of life for millions of people with disabilities. These are just a few of her accomplishments, along with being a mother, wife, champion and friend, Marca was a leader with a vision of ensuring all persons with disabilities were empowered to live a full life in the community. Our thoughts are with her family and loved ones. Thank you for sharing your amazing mom, wife and friend with the world as she TRULY made it a better place.

Please take time to read the following statement about Marca from the National Council on Disability:

National Council on Disability

NCD remembers former NCD Chairperson Marca Bristo – first NCD chair to have a disability

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Council on Disability (NCD) remembers former NCD Chairperson Marca Bristo, who passed away Sunday, Sept. 8, at the age of 66.

Bristo, who in 1978 was paralyzed from a diving accident, had been at the forefront of the disability rights movement over the last four decades.

She founded Access Living in 1980, worked tirelessly on the Americans with Disabilities Act that passed in 1990, and co-founded the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) in 1992.

“Marca was a strong and inspirational leader in the disability community for many years,” said NCD Chairman Neil Romano. “Every time I had the pleasure of being in her company, I learned a great deal and was inspired by her energy and her single-mindedness on behalf of people with disabilities,” he said.

Bristo was appointed to NCD by President Bill Clinton in 1994 and served as Chair until 2002. She was the first NCD Chair to have a disability.

“Her historic nomination to chair our Council – as the first person with a disability to serve as chair – has opened up the door for others with disabilities to follow her in that position,” said Council Member Andrés Gallegos.

When she was appointed in 1994, NCD held five “Town Meetings” on health care reform, sending a report to the President and the Congress on the unique needs of people with disabilities. During Bristo’s time with NCD, the Council was prolific in its published reports to lawmakers on such topics as reforming Medicaid and Medicare; improving the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; creating a foreign policy on disability; securing access to emerging technologies; removing barriers to work; considering disability in rural communities; among many other topics.

NCD also published position papers on assisted suicide and genetic discrimination during Bristo’s time as Chair – both topics to again be addressed in NCD’s soon to be released bioethics series of reports.

“Marca not only fought for the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, our landmark civil rights legislation, but she helped author the Act,” said Council Member Gallegos. “Once it became law, she dedicated herself to fight to ensure that it lived up to its promise and empowered and mentored others to do the same.”

During Bristo’s tenure in the early years of the ADA, the civil rights law came under high-stakes court review in a number of instances. Each time, in line with the agency’s mandate to promote the goals of the ADA, Bristo led NCD to address these controversies through filings of amicus briefs for some of the most important ADA-related court cases in the 90s, such as Olmstead v. L.C.; Garrett v. Board of Trustees University of Alabama; Toyota v. Ella Williams; and Chevron U.S.A. v. Mario Echazabal.

NCD’s Council and staff remember Bristo for the impact she made as a champion for all people with disabilities.

“Marca was at the forefront of the independent living and disability rights movements,” said Council Member Gallegos. “We are forever grateful for all that she was able to accomplish.”

“I will miss her both personally and professionally,” said Chairman Romano. “We all owe her a great debt of gratitude.”


About the National Council on Disability (NCD): First established as an advisory Council within the Department of Education in 1978, NCD became an independent federal agency in 1984. In 1986, NCD recommended enactment of an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and drafted the first version of the bill which was introduced in the House and Senate in 1988. Since enactment of the ADA in 1990, NCD has continued to play a leading role in crafting disability policy, and advising the President, Congress and other federal agencies on disability policies, programs, and practices.

Arc & UCP Join Civil Rights Groups to Ask Governor for Action on Hate Crimes

We’ve joined with a powerful coalition of California civil rights groups to ask Governor Newsom for action on hate crimes and related domestic terrorism.

Our priority is always anti-disability hate crimes and other victimization of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. By allying with the broad civil rights coalition, we’ve been able to accomplish much more for our community’s safety that we could have accomplished alone.

A bill we sponsored along with the LGBTQ organization Equality California, AB 1985 [], for example, focused largely on training police to recognize and respond to anti-disability crimes, which we call the invisible hate crimes.

As shown in point 4 in the following letter to Governor Newsom, we’ve earned the support of our fellow civil rights groups in calling on law enforcement agencies to carry out that law.

Here is a link to the coalition letter.