Thursday, December 03, 2020

Tucson police chief offers to resign after releasing video of officers restraining Hispanic man who later died

Jun 25. 2020
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By The Washington Post · Mark Berman · NATIONAL, COURTSLAW, RACE

Chris Magnus, the police chief in Tucson, offered to resign Wednesday after releasing video footage showing police officers restraining Carlos Ingram-Lopez, a young man who died in their custody earlier this year.

The footage was made public more than two months after Tucson police officers responded to a call about Ingram-Lopez, a 27-year-old Hispanic man, and wound up restraining him facedown. The three officers resigned last week, before the department's internal probe had concluded, Magnus said. 

The video footage, captured by one of the officers' body cameras, recorded Ingram-Lopez wailing and apologizing, begging for water, pleading and calling for his "nana." 

They kept him there for about 12 minutes, Magnus said during a news conference Wednesday. Ingram-Lopez went into cardiac arrest and then, despite officers' attempts to revive him, was pronounced dead, Magnus said.

The recording appeared to disturb the officials speaking about it on Wednesday, including Tucson Mayor Regina Romero, a Democrat, who said Ingram-Lopez's life "was needlessly lost." She also appeared surprised that Magnus had offered to resign. 

The officers responded to an April 21 call from Ingram-Lopez's grandmother, who contacted police shortly after 1 a.m. that day reporting that he was drunk, naked and running around the house, Magnus said. Two days before the call, Magnus added, Ingram-Lopez had allegedly committed domestic violence and disorderly conduct involving his family. 

In the recording, officers can be heard repeatedly telling a restrained, frantic Ingram-Lopez to calm down. At one point, an officer warned Ingram-Lopez that he is "going to get zapped" if he does not calm down, an apparent reference to a stun gun. 

The three officers who responded were all found to have improperly handled the incident, Magnus said. All three would have been fired had they not already resigned, Magnus said.

Magnus, calling it "a difficult day," described what happened the night officers responded to the call before playing the footage. Ingram-Lopez ran into the garage, Magnus said, which is where officers handcuffed him and then put him facedown. Magnus said there was no indication any officers used chokeholds or held a knee to his neck, which was the case when George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis in May, setting off nationwide protests. 

A coroner concluded that Ingram-Lopez had both a preexisting heart condition and cocaine in his system, but the coroner did not determine a cause of death, Magnus said. 

Ingram-Lopez's death was among a string of high-profile incidents in which people have ended up dead as a result of police using force against them. Many have sparked outrage, including several that have gained increased attention amid the protests in the wake of Floyd's death. 

If Magnus's resignation takes effect, he would also follow other top police officials who have lost their jobs with remarkable speed in recent weeks, including in Atlanta, Louisville, Ky., and Richmond, Va. 

Magnus said both black officers and white officers were involved in the incident, describing two of them as having no history of complaints against them. The third had a sustained complaint from last year relating to an improper search of a prisoner, he said. 

The police force launched its own investigations into the encounter and sent the results of the criminal investigation to a county attorney's office, which has not made any determinations about possible charges, Magnus said. 

The administrative investigation reviewed footage from the officers' body cameras, identifying numerous policy violations. One of those videos was the source of the footage released Wednesday. The recording begins with the officers arriving, and while parts of the first minutes are dark and difficult to see, the audio remains clear and repeatedly captures Ingram-Lopez's cries. 

The officers quickly confronted and restrained Ingram-Lopez, cuffing his hands behind his back. At one point in the recording, Ingram-Lopez stops yelling for a time. When officers place a covering over him, an officer tells him they are putting a blanket on him, and he soon begins yelling again, alternately shrieking and begging in Spanish for water. 

Later in the video, one of the responding officials is recorded yelling "Hey" at Ingram-Lopez, and they then roll him over. Another is heard saying: "One adult male. He's not very conscious right now." The video also captures officers apparently trying to give him CPR. It ends not long after emergency medical technicians arrive and begin attempting to revive him. 

Magnus said Wednesday's release of the footage during his news conference was his 18th time seeing the recording. 

"To demonstrate my willingness to take accountability for these mistakes, I am offering my resignation to the mayor, city council and city manager, which they can accept or handle as they deem appropriate," said Magnus, who has had the job in Tucson since 2016. Tucson is Arizona's second-largest city, with nearly 550,000 residents, and it sits about an hour north of the border with Mexico.

Romero, who took office last year, decried the amount of time it took for city officials to learn about what happened, saying it was "not acceptable" that she, the city council and the public were not notified about the incident after it occurred. She also sought to cast what happened to Ingram-Lopez as an aberration for the city's police force.

"I know that the actions of these officers are not reflective of the department, whose officers are professional, hard-working individuals with deep roots in our community," she said. 

Romero said she had spoken with Ingram-Lopez's family to offer her condolences. Asked about Magnus's offer to resign, Romero said she had not anticipated that he would make that move. She praised him and said she would consider what to do next. 

 

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