Durham police chief asks for patience in shooting

The shooting happened on Park Avenue near Holloway Street. (Jeremy Baker)
August 13, 2013 2:47:33 PM PDT
In an open letter to the Durham Herald Sun newspaper Tuesday, Police Chief Jose Lopez asked for patience as the investigation of a fatal shooting involving an officer continues.

Click here to read the letter

On July 27, investigators said the officer shot 33-year-old Jose Ocampo in the 800 block of Park Avenue. Police were responding to a report of a stabbing and said Ocampo refused to drop a knife in his hand.

But Ocampo's family is now being represented by the North Carolina Central University's Law Clinic. Earlier this month, Attorney Scott Holmes said he has three witnesses who claim Ocampo never posed an imminent threat, and that the shooting was not justified.

"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," said Holmes August 2.

Some have criticized Chief Lopez for defending his officers before the results from the investigation are in.

"It was really bad taste, bad timing for him to release that statement without the full investigation but he chose to defend his officer ... that tells us as a community what position he's taking before the investigation is complete," offered resident Ernest Smith.

But Chief Lopez told ABC11 Tuesday his answers to direct questions during the early stages of the investigation weren't meant to defend the officer, but instead educate the public about officer-involved shootings.

In his open letter, Chief Lopez called the shooting a tragedy for all involved, and promised a meticulous investigation of what happened.

"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," he wrote.

The shooting is being investigated by the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation and the Durham Police Department's Professional Standards Division and Criminal Investigations Division, which is standard procedure in any officer-involved shooting.

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