Tucson Police Chief Offers To Resign Over Handling Of Man's Death In Custody

By Michel Marizco, Mark Brodie
Published: Wednesday, June 24, 2020 - 5:09pm
Updated: Thursday, June 25, 2020 - 10:53am

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Chris Magnus
Michel Marizco/KJZZ
Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus speaks during a press conference on Nov. 2, 2018.

Months after an Arizona man died in Tucson police custody, a federal investigation into the death is underway and the southern Arizona city’s municipal government is in turmoil.  

The police body cam video is disturbing.

Carlos Adrian Ingram Lopez, 27, is lying on the ground, and begins to scream. Tucson police say his own grandmother called for help, he was running around, shouting, and intoxicated. 

After 12 minutes, he died. An autopsy showed he’d been restrained, a spit hood placed over his head. The autopsy also showed he had an enlarged heart and was high on cocaine when he died. It also reports a significant history of cocaine. Police say the officers involved placed a disposable blanket over his body and a second over his head. No cause of death is determined in the autopsy.

Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus said Wednesday that the officers involved were themselves white and Black and that Ingram Lopez’s death should not be taken in the context of George Floyd’s at the hands of police in Minnesota or like other recent controversial cases in Kentucky and Georgia where police killed Black men and women. 

"It is important to note there is no indication of malicious intent nor did any of the officers use strikes, chokeholds or placed a knee on Mr. Ingram Lopez’s neck," he said.

But he said the three officers who resigned amid an administrative investigation last week failed to handle the incident as they were trained.

Then Magnus offered to quit. 

"To demonstrate my willingness to take accountability for these mistakes, I am offering my resignation to the mayor, the city council and the city manager which they can accept or handle as they deem appropriate," he said.

The mistakes he referenced were twofold: first, the incident was never reported to the public until it was reported by the Tucson Sentinel news website. Law enforcement agencies typically give at least rudimentary information about a death in custody within a few days. But also the Police Department’s top officials were briefed but didn’t view the body cam footage, though investigators did.

Magnus attributed both mistakes to the coronavirus pandemic.

"I’ll remind you that this incident took place at the start of the most intense period of the COVID-19 pandemic," he said.

The FBI is currently investigating the case and the Pima County Attorney’s Office is weighing potential criminal charges against the former officers. Tucson Mayor Regina Romero sought to get out in front of any potential police protests that could occur.

"I ask that we engage in civil, constructive and peaceful dialogue and work together for change," she said.

City Councilwoman Lane Santa Cruz said in a statement that police acted violently, refused to give Ingram Lopez water, ignored his complaints that he couldn’t breathe and used a plastic blanket over him as a weapon.

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