Durham police chief asks for patience in Ocampo shooting investigation

mschultz@newsobserver.comAugust 12, 2013 

Jose L. Lopez

CITY OF DURHAM

  • Message to the community from Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez

    The taking of a human life, by anyone for any reason, is a tragedy; and the events surrounding the July 27 fatal shooting of Mr. Jose Adan Cruz Ocampo were a tragedy for all parties involved. The thoughts and prayers of the Durham Police Department go out to the family of Mr. Ocampo, as well as to Officer Mbuthia and his family.

    The Durham Police Department prides itself on strong community partnerships and trust, and we ask for your patience and understanding as this investigation progresses. We have asked an outside agency – the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) – to conduct a thorough, impartial and independent investigation of this officer-involved shooting. Our Criminal Investigations and Professional Standards Divisions are also conducting meticulous investigations. All of this is standard procedure in any officer-involved shooting.

    Once the SBI completes their investigation, they will provide the entire case to the Durham County District Attorney’s Office for review and final disposition. While it is natural for the community to want details and answers, we ask that the community and the media allow the investigation to proceed on its own timeline. We also strongly encourage any witnesses who may have information about this event to contact the SBI so that the information can be included in the investigation.

    In closing, let me say that the Durham Police Department will continue to work closely with the residents of our community. I feel that the lines of communication are stronger and more open than they’ve ever been and we continue to receive accolades and appreciation from communities across this great city. The Durham Police Department fully intends to continue to provide the highest quality law enforcement services possible in our ongoing effort to maintain our shared goal of a safe and livable community.

— Police Chief Jose Lopez asked for patience Monday as investigations continue into an officer’s fatal shooting of a stabbing suspect.

The director of the Civil Litigation Clinic at N.C. Central University has called for an independent investigation into the shooting of Jose Adan Cruz Ocampo.

Last week, a coalition of church leaders and neighborhood residents released a “Statement of Concern” from residents of Old East Durham and Walltown neighborhoods.

“People make mistakes, for certain,” the statement said. “But people can also become corrupt. For this reason, the public trust in any police department depends upon internal processes of review. We are concerned that Chief Lopez spoke publicly in support of his officer before the official investigation was complete. We are, furthermore, concerned that no one who witnessed the shooting finds the Chief’s public account of the events credible.”

In an interview with The Herald-Sun soon after the July 27 shooting, Lopez reiterated the department’s initial statement that Ocampo was shot in the chest when he failed to heed instructions to put his hands in the air and drop a knife.

The description didn’t jibe with witnesses who told an investigator for the NCCU clinic that Ocampo, 33, was handing a knife, handle side out, to officers outside his home at 806 Park Ave. when he was shot. Ocampo was a suspect in a nonfatal stabbing earlier that day.

In his statement Monday, Lopez called the shooting a tragedy.

“The taking of a human life, by anyone for any reason, is a tragedy; and the events surrounding the July 27 fatal shooting of Mr. Jose Adan Cruz Ocampo were a tragedy for all parties involved. The thoughts and prayers of the Durham Police Department go out to the family of Mr. Ocampo, as well as to Officer Mbuthia and his family.

“… While it is natural for the community to want details and answers, we ask that the community and the media allow the (State Bureau of Investigation) investigation to proceed on its own timeline,” the statement said. “We also strongly encourage any witnesses who may have information … to contact the SBI so that the information can be included in the investigation.”

About 100 people attended a vigil for Ocampo on Aug. 4, including his two brothers who traveled from Arizona to arrange for the body to be sent home to Honduras.

A fund has been set up to help the family pay the $5,250 cost, said Marcia Owen, the director of the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham, which organized the vigil and gave the brothers money for gas and food.

“These are the needs violence creates in our community,” Owen said. “The Ocampo family should not bear the personal and financial burden of this unexpected tragedy alone.”

Donations may be sent to Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, with “Ocampo Family” on memo line, at 901 W. Chapel Hill St., Suite A, Durham, NC 27701.

Schultz: 919-932-2003

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