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Magdiel Sanchez
During a press conference Friday, Dec. 8, 2017, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater displays the "walking stick" that Magdiel Sanchez aka Miguel Sanchez brandished at officers during a fatal encounter with police Sept. 19 that left him dead. (Josh McBee)

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater cleared two Oklahoma City police officers today of wrongdoing in the fatal shooting of a deaf man in southeast Oklahoma City.

On Sept. 19, Lt. Matthew Lindsey and Sgt. Chris Barnes responded to a hit-and-run complaint at an intersection near the 200 block of Southeast 57th Street. Minutes later, Barnes would shoot Miguel Sanchez — aka Magdiel Sanchez — five times from about 10 feet away, killing him at the scene. Sanchez was a 35-year-old deaf and nonverbal man with no involvement in the reported hit and run. Barnes was subsequently placed on paid administrative leave.

“After careful review of the evidence in this case, I’ve determined that Lieutenant Lindsey and Officer Barnes’ actions were lawful, reasonable and not excessive,” Prater said during his press conference Friday afternoon at the Oklahoma County building. “Both officers employed techniques in an attempt to de-escalate and bring the situation to a peaceful ending. It is due to no fault of the officers that the matter ended violently.”

Lawyers representing Sanchez’s family from OKC law firm Riggs Abney, however, disagreed.

“De-escalation was mentioned several times,” said Melvin Hall after Prater’s multimedia presentation. “I think it’s fair to say that there was absolutely zero de-escalation that was deployed in this particular situation.”

Hall cited what he described as the officers’ persistent “pursuit” of Sanchez, who was brandishing a two-foot long, two-pound metal pipe wrapped in athletic bandaging when officers arrived on scene. Neighbors would later describe the object as Sanchez’s “walking stick,” noting he used it to fend off stray dogs while walking the neighborhood and also gestured with it to aid in nonverbal communication.

Prater produced the pipe during his presentation so media could hold it and feel for themselves if it could be considered threatening.

“This will kill you,” Prater said after whacking the pipe on the floor multiple times.

During their encounter with Sanchez, officers observed the deaf man use the pipe to smash a plastic table on the porch of a residence at 229 S.E. 57th St. Sanchez’s father, Adan Sanchez-Gallegos, who was the driver of the truck involved in the hit and run earlier that evening, would later tell investigators his son had mental health issues that included flying into violent rages, according to Prater.

With regard to the lack of body cameras on the two officers who first appeared at the scene, OKCPD Capt. Bo Mathews said the force currently has about 100 body cam units but would need about 300 to equip all officers during various shifts.

Statement from Fraternal Organization of Police

Oklahoma City Fraternal Organization of Police vice president Mark Nelson released a statement shortly after Prater announced his decision. Sanchez’s first name was misspelled in it.

“We are relieved District Attorney David Prater cleared Sgt. Chris Barnes of any wrongdoing in the death of Madgiel Sanchez,” Nelson said. “Sgt. Barnes acted with professionalism and restraint, firing his weapon only when absolutely necessary to protect himself, his fellow officers and the public. Police officers must make life-or-death decisions in extremely uncertain, stressful and dangerous situations. We appreciate prosecutors’ thorough and fair review of all information before concluding Sgt. Barnes acted appropriately and in accordance with the law. The FOP is proud to support Sgt. Barnes.”

WARNING: Graphic footage contained below

The video below contains footage from OKCPD’s Samuel Ballinger, who arrived on the scene to assist officers after Sanchez was shot. The footage contains images of Sanchez’s body that viewers may find upsetting.

OKCPD officer charged in separate fatal shooting

Tuesday, Prater charged OKCPD Sgt. Keith Sweeney with second-degree murder in the shooting of Dustin Pigeon, a man who had called police in crisis and presented himself to officers holding a bottle of lighter fluid and a lighter. Sweeney had been the third officer to arrive at the scene. He shot Pigeon five times.

Sweeney was released on bond Wednesday, and his attorney has said he is innocent of the charge. Prater presented the case as second-degree murder with an optional judgment of first-degree manslaughter.

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Josh McBee earned a bachelor's degree in English and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma. He has reported and edited for newspapers and other media in Oklahoma, Colorado and California.