“Being deaf is not a crime”: Protests after OKC police shooting
Magdiel Sanchez. | Sanchez Family Photo via AP

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — More than 150 protesters marched on City Hall here on Sunday, demanding justice for Magdiel Sanchez, a deaf man shot to death by police last week.

This is the fifth police-involved shooting in Oklahoma City this year, according to NPR, which reported that a witness to a hit-and-run accident had told police that the car involved was located at the Sanchez family’s address.

When police arrived, Sanchez was on the front porch holding what they described as a metal pipe. Several neighbors said when Sanchez did not comply with police commands, they yelled to them repeatedly that Sanchez was deaf. Nevertheless, Sgt. Chris Barnes fatally shot Sanchez.

Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty explained to KFOR-TV, “Our officers are not all trained with bilingual capacities. Sanchez’s father was in the yard but did not speak English.”

Local news and grassroots activists also claim that many on the police force are not trained in non-lethal options. Police are only supposed to resort to using lethal weapons when their own lives are actually threatened, according to Oklahoma City activist and video documentarist Mark Faulk.

“Instead, they use deadly force as a first choice, not as a last resort,” he stated.

“Merely failing to follow commands is an unacceptable defense for the use of lethal force,” the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma said in a statement Thursday.

“We have allowed a dangerous culture of ‘us vs. them’ to fester among our law enforcement professionals. This killing speaks directly to a warrior culture in which the very people police officers are sworn to protect come to be viewed as the enemy. This culture assumes that an officer’s command, regardless of validity, is more important and more valuable than a human life.”

The City Hall rally Sunday was organized by the Carnalismo National Brown Berets, the American Indian Movement-Indian Territory Chapter, Black Lives Matter Oklahoma City, and the Oklahoma Association of the Deaf. Protestors marched from City Hall to the Oklahoma City Police Department headquarters.

Organizers entered the OKC Police department to request that a police representative address the crowd. The request was declined; representatives were told that a meeting would take place next week with OKC Police and rally organizers to initiate discussions about what needs to happen to affect positive changes in law enforcement agencies in Oklahoma City.

“I am an angry black woman!” said the Rev. Sheri Amore Dickerson, addressing the rally. “How sad and fearful that the police did not hear the neighbors yelling he was deaf. How many more times must we hear them change the story to justify killing?” continued Dickerson, representing Black Lives Matter Oklahoma. Her words, like those of other speakers, were communicated by a signer to deaf and hearing-impaired protesters.

“People of color have been brutalized and murdered for centuries in America. Magdiel Sanchez’s senseless murder by Oklahoma City police is just another example of the racism in America right now,” said Ashley McCray, a member of the Absentee Shawnee Tribe and founder of #NoPlainsPipeline.

Out of all the Native tribes in Oklahoma, only three are indigenous to Oklahoma, McCray pointed out in her speech. “Some forty other tribes were placed upon death marches to relocate to Oklahoma forcibly.” McCray, a University of Oklahoma graduate student, continued: “We are brown-skinned too as our brothers and sisters south of us are. Realize we did not have borders, but yet borders were forced upon both of us, North and South.”

The Sanchez family demanded the arrest of the officer who shot Magdiel in a sharply-worded statement issued Saturday. They describe the 35-year-old as “a friendly and kind young man… widely loved by his family, friends, and the community in which he lived. Despite being totally deaf, non-verbal, and developmentally impaired, Magdiel was a familiar and welcomed member of his neighborhood.”

Why would a man in Magdiel’s condition and circumstances, on his own front porch, carrying his trusted walking stick, be killed by the very people to whom the community looks for protection, the family asks.


Mark Maxey
Mark Maxey

Oklahoman Mark Maxey is a Yuchi Indian, enrolled in the Muscogee Nation, and has a degree in radio/TV/film. He is a member of the National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO. He’s worked as an administrative assistant, petroleum landman, barista, staff writer, paralegal, content producer and graphic designer. He spent six months as a National Data Team volunteer for the Bernie Sanders for President campaign.