Death certificate says man shot by Durham police was fleeing; chief says certificate is wrong

mschultz@newsobserver.comAugust 9, 2013 


Father Bill McIntyre of Immaculate Conception Church leads a prayer vigil for Jose Adan Cruz Ocampo on Sunday, Aug. 4, 2013, in Old East Durham. Ocampo was fatally shot by police who wanted to queston him in connection with a stabbing earlier July 27.


— The death certificate for a suspect fatally shot by a Durham police officer says he was killed while fleeing, but the chief says it’s wrong.

Jose Ocampo, 33, died from a gunshot wound to the head, according to the certificate signed by Dr. Yang Shi, a fourth-year resident in the Duke University School of Medicine.

Shi, who is from China Medical University according to the Duke Pathology website, wrote that Ocampo was “shot by officer while fleeding (sic),” according to the death certificate.

Police Chief Jose Lopez has declined to be interviewed about the July 27 incident since he told The Herald-Sun that Officer R.S. Mbuthia shot Ocampo in the chest after Ocampo failed to put his hands up in the air and took a knife out of his pocket.

In a statement Friday night, Lopez said the certificate is incorrect when it says Ocampo, who was a suspect in a non-fatal stabbing earlier that day, was fleeing when he was killed outside his home at 806 Park Ave. in Old East Durham.

“We have been in communication with the medical examiner’s office and we were informed that there was a mistake written on the death certificate,” he said in the statement. “We understand that it will be corrected on the autopsy report.“

Lopez did not dispute the listed cause of death: “gunshot wound to the head.”

The shooting of Ocampo, a native of Honduras, has drawn criticism. Witnesses told a private investigator that Ocampo did not understand the officers shouting at him in English and was offering the knife handle side out to police when he was shot four times. The director of the Civil Litigation Clinic at N.C. Central University has called for an outside investigation.

In an email Wednesday night Shi referred questions about the death certificate to attending physicians. Chief Medical Examiner Deborah Radisch did the autopsy on Ocampo, but she was out of the office Thursday and not due back this week, according to the office.

On Wednesday, Scott Holmes, director of the NCCU clinic said the death certificate raises more questions about the case.

If the information that Ocampo was fleeing came from law enforcement, “that’s really problematic,” Holmes said Wednesday, “because what that means is there are now two contradictory versions within the city police’s version” of what happened the morning Ocampo was killed.

“Because it can’t be both self-defense and fleeing,” Holmes said.

In addition to the Police Department’s internal review, the State Bureau of Investigation is reviewing the shooting, which is standard procedure in an officer-involved shooting.

The SBI will give its report to interim District Attorney Leon Stanback, who said he doesn’t know how long that will take or how much he will release.

“I’ll have to decide that when I get it,” the former judge said, “but I can’t see any reason why I wouldn’t make it public, or at least the results.”

Mbuthia has been put on paid administrative leave, which is also standard procedure.

Staff writer Jim Wise contributed to this story.

Schultz: 919-932-2003

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