DURHAM: Family considers civil rights suit in death of Jose Ocam - WNCT

Family considers civil rights suit in death of Jose Ocampo

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DURHAM, N.C. -

The Durham District Attorney will not press charges in a case in which a Durham Police officer shot and killed a man, Jose Adan Cruz Ocampo, who refused to drop a knife.

On July 27, four Durham officers responded to a stabbing at 806 Park Ave. Ocampo, 33, was shot after he refused to drop a knife when surrounded by police.

Some say a language barrier caused the shooting to happen and that Ocampo – who was a native of Honduras -- was actually trying to surrender to police.

"The officer used excessive force by shooting him in the head," said Ocamp family attorney Scott Holmes. "[The family is] saddened, they are frustrated, they are angry, they wonder why it's taken so long to investigate this case."

It began when friends say Ocampo threw a beer bottle at another man, hitting him in the face. The man was also cut during the altercation. The stabbing victim was taken to the hospital for treatment.

When police arrived, they found Ocampo standing outside a home with a knife in one hand.

District Attorney Leon Stanback said Thursday that Officer Ronald Mbuthia demanded Ocampo to drop the knife. When Ocampo did not, Mbuthia fired his gun four times, killing Ocampo.

"He was told several to drop the knife several times," Stanbeck said. "He was told in Spanish to drop the knife by one of his neighbors who was there at the time. He still didn't drop the knife and he lunged at the officer with the knife, and then the officer fired."

Stanback said his office did a thorough investigation and "found there is no probable cause to charge a crime in this matter."

In a statement, Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez said, "First of all, I want to express my sympathies to the Ocampo family during this difficult time.

"I would like to thank the State Bureau of Investigation for taking the necessary time to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation of this case. I would also like to thank the community for their patience while this investigation was completed.

"Now that the SBI has completed their criminal investigation, we will be able to complete our internal investigation in this case. The internal investigation ensures that the Durham Police Department's policies and procedures were followed."

Ocampo's friends have told WNCN Ocampo did not know what police were saying to him.

"Jose no understand, no speak English," said his friend Alfredo Medea, after the incident

When Mbuthia demanded Ocampo drop the knife to the ground, a friend, speaking through a translator, told WNCN that Ocampo instead tried to give the knife to the officers.

"You know the part you use to cut? He put his hand on that part and gave the other end to police," said a translator for David Battista.

Medea, speaking through a translator said, "The police should have never killed him. They should have used a Taser or pepper spray."

Holmes said Ocampo did not present a deadly threat when he was shot.

"When he died, Mr. Ocampo did not present a deadly threat of force to the officer, and the officer used excessive force by shooting him in the head," Holmes said.

The Ocampo family says they are considering filing a civil rights lawsuit for wrongful death, or a suit charging for excessive force by police. But Holmes said the family had made no definite decision.

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