Sunday, August 4, 2013
Independent investigation reveals a different version in the police shooting of Adan Cruz Ocampo
He didn’t speak English.
None of the police officers on the scene speak Spanish.
Durham police have identified the man fatally shot by an officer as Jose Adan Cruz Ocampo, 33.
He didn’t have to die.
Scott Holmes, director of the Civil Litigation Clinic, is representing the Ocampo family. Holmes asked for an independent investigation of the shooting by private investigator Steve Hale, former head of the Wake County Sheriff’s Homicide Department. Holmes said that the findings of the investigation, based on three independent eyewitness accounts, differ from the version released by Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez.
Witnesses say Ocampo was carrying a small pocket knife, but wasn’t threatening anyone when police arrived. Police were called to the 800 block of Park Avenue because of an altercation between Ocampo and another resident.
He did not speak English and the Police did not speak to him in Spanish.
Witnesses say he was holding the blade of the knife with the handle facing the police. They say four officers were at the scene with their guns drawn when Ocampo extended his arms outward to give the knife to a police officer who was standing about five feet away.
Ocampo was waiting for police to discuss the altercation that took place before they arrived.
Multiple witnesses say a police officer fired between three to five shots directly at Ocampo. Two bullets entered his chest and one landed in his head.
Witnesses say ambulance attended first gave attention to a person whose face had been cut with a bottle instead of Ocampo. One witness said they waited for Ocampo to die before bringing the ambulance over to help him.
Why did police shoot Ocampo instead of using a taser? Why wasn’t an officer on hand who speaks Spanis? Why wasn’t immediate care given to Ocampo?
Holmes said it is his opinion, based upon the facts found by the private investigator, that the Durham officer was not justified in using lethal force.
“It is unreasonable to believe that a person presenting the handle of a knife posed a threat of death or imminent bodily harm,” Holmes wrote in a press release. “Based upon the eyewitness statements of the three non-officers on the scene, the Durham officer did not accurately assess the threat or properly interpret the behavior of Mr. Ocampo.”
Holmes noted that Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez’s public statement of July 30 did not include the information from the eyewitnesses at the scene.
“In his statement, Chief Lopez apparently relied only upon the statements provided by the officers involved in the shooting. It is disappointing that Chief Lopez would release an incomplete version of events before the finalization of the investigation being conducted by the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) and the internal affairs investigation that he said was being conducted by his own department.”
Jose Adan Cruz Ocampo was the youngest of three brothers. His wife and young son live in a small town in Honduras. He was working in the United States to send money to support them.
“He was an honest and loving man,” Holmes said.
If witness accounts are correct, Ocampo was killed without just cause. The Durham community should be outraged by his death.