Man died during April TPD call; Cops pushed out, face possible criminal charges
City Council cancels Tuesday meeting as controversy develops
With three Tucson police officers pushed out last week after an investigation into an April emergency call that resulted in a man's death, a City Council meeting in which the police union contract was to be renewed was called off Tuesday.
While Tucson officials have not publicly identified the man who died, sources indicated he was 27-year-old Carlos Adrian Ingram-Lopez.
The case, first reported by TucsonSentinel.com, has been referred to the Pima County Attorney's Office for potential prosecution of the officers, who have not been publicly named by the city, sources said.
Update: TPD chief offers to resign as details revealed about Ingram-Lopez death in police custody
The case began with what various sources said was a "domestic violence" or "mental health" call to police. The department said it was a "disturbance" call Tuesday afternoon.
According to multiple sources with knowledge of the incident and investigation, three Tucson Police Department officers who were involved in the April incident handed in their resignations on Friday — almost two months to the day after a man died while being restrained by cops who responded to a 911 call placed by the man's grandmother.
What the Devil won't tell you: Tucson must release all info about man's death in police custody... 2 months ago
Police Chief Chris Magnus did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday morning. Mayor Regina Romero said she was postponing the City Council meeting.
"After viewing a video yesterday of a Tucson Police Department in-custody death, I do not feel that it would be appropriate to carry on with business as usual in light of this event," Romero said in a written statement sent out after the Sentinel first published this story. "I am anguished and deeply troubled by what I saw."
One source, who requested anonymity in order to provide information that they were not authorized to reveal, described the incident and the ensuing probe as "a clusterfuck."
"Numerous procedural violations" occurred during the incident that caused the death, one source said.
The three officers would have been fired had they not resigned, a TPD spokesman said Tuesday afternoon, after this report was initially published.
In a brief statement released late Tuesday, hours after this report was first published, Magnus said that the officers "did not live up to the high standards of the Tucson Police Department. They are no longer employed here." The three quit the department before the internal investigation was completed. "That investigation is now complete," TPD said.
Tucson police did not disclose the death to the public when it occurred, and have yet to release any detailed information on the record about the death or the investigation.
"Out of respect for the family's wishes, I have been informed that the city will not be immediately sharing the name of the victim, details of the incident, or the video per the family's request," Romero said. TPD is expected to provide some information at a press conference on Wednesday.
According to a statement released by TPD late in the day, the Pima County Medical Examiner's Office found that the man died of a sudden cardiac arrest. The man had "acute cocaine intoxication" and an enlarged heart, TPD said PCOME found. A copy of the full report from the medical examiner was not immediately available.
Sources with knowledge of the investigation said that the man was naked and "out of control" when officers arrived.
The officers administered Narcan to the man, handcuffed him, and placed him face down and covered him with a blanket, sources said.
Councilwoman Lane Santa Cruz, who viewed the video of the incident on Monday, described it as a death "at the hands of Tucson police officers" and a "horrible incident of police violence" in a Facebook post.
The Tucson Police Officers Association, the police union, disputed that characterization, saying "there was no force used in the incident" and that Santa Cruz was "playing fast and loose with the facts."
In the brief statement about the incident, TPD said "no blows, strikes, chokeholds, knee to the neck, chemical or electronic weapons were used. No shots were fired."
The fatal incident, which sources said took place April 18 or April 21, was sparked by an emergency call to a home near Golf Links and Houghton.
The family of the man who died has not yet been provided with the complete information developed during the probe. Sources said Police Chief Magnus was set to meet with them Tuesday or Wednesday to review the case, and show them body-camera video of the incident.
The three officers restrained the man, whose identity has not yet been made public, using a blanket, sources said. TPD acknowledged late Tuesday that the man was in handcuffs.
The man who died was Latino. One of the TPD officers was Black, and the other two were white, sources said.
Few city officials would comment on the record about the incident, citing the fact that the family had not yet been fully apprised of the details.
Several sources expressed frustration that the death had not been made public yet, two months later.
One said that lower-level commanders in TPD "downplayed the investigation... they were trying to white-wash this" internally.
Sources indicated that members of the City Council were first informed of the death last week, and that the police chief may not have been told of the seriousness of the incident until the internal investigation was complete. Magnus individually showed the 20-minute video to the mayor and members of the Council on Monday. He provided them with limited information about the incident late last week.
Romero said she told Chief Magnus on Monday that "We need to make sure that this is made public as quickly as possible... that we put out all of the information to the community."
"Count on me proposing immediate action to adopt reforms, so we can prevent similar things from happening again," she told TucsonSentinel.com on Tuesday.
"I don't know what the process or protocol is," Romero said of the two-month delay in any information on the death being made public. "But if it's not written anywhere that mayor and Council and community are not told immediately, I want that to change."
"Whoever was involved in making the decision to not apprise the chief and his deputies, and mayor and Council, that is unacceptable," Romero said. "Every in-custody death needs to be disclosed immediately."
Council meeting canceled
A City Council study session and meeting, set for Tuesday afternoon and evening, were called off late Tuesday morning by Mayor Romero.
City Councilwoman Lane Santa Cruz posted on Facebook, saying "I will not participate in the mayor and Council meeting today because of the tragedy and death of one of our community members at the hands of Tucson police officers. I do not take my responsibilities as a council member lightly, and I cannot, in good conscience, sit by and conduct business as usual without addressing this tragedy."
The Council was set to review the city budget, including the Police Department, and vote on the city's contract with the Tucson Police Officers Association, the police union.
The man's death came either just days before or the same night as the Council unanimously approved a new ordinance aimed at restricting self-proclaimed "First Amendment Auditors" from videoing police incidents while allegedly interfering with law enforcement operations. Critics have said that the measure was too broad, and a second look at it was also on the agenda for Tuesday's meeting.
The mayor and most members of the Council have declined to answer questions about that ordinance posed by TucsonSentinel.com beginning the day after it was voted into law. Public records requests about discussions regarding the ordinance have been stonewalled, with few released in a slow trickle over two months, and several city staffers making false statements, claiming they do not exist.
Family asks for delay in public seeing video
Santa Cruz declined to provide more details about the incident, saying it wouldn't be appropriate until the family was provided all of the information.
"The family has asked to receive the footage before all the details of the case go public," she posted on Facebook. "This horrible incident of police violence has brought the national debate to the doorsteps of Tucson City Hall. The mayor and Council must not look away."
Councilman Paul Cunningham also said he didn't want to discuss details of what he called "a horrible situation" until he was able to meet with the family, "if they're willing to see us."
"I really feel awful for the family and our community," he said. "And hopefully our community can find a way to heal together."
"My most important priority is to respect the sensitivity of the family," said Councilman Steve Kozachik. "TPD leadership will meet with them privately tomorrow and fully review the incident. Following that meeting there will be a press conference during which the public will be briefed."
"That's the proper sequence. Posting inflammatory statements on social media shows a lack of regard for all of the people involved," said Kozachik.
Magnus defended the rest of his department in the written statement put out late Tuesday. "The vast, vast majority of our officers do their jobs well and responsibly and are rightfully disturbed and dismayed by any statements to the contrary. I continue to have the utmost confidence in the men and women of our police department," he said.
The TPOA union said late Tuesday afternoon that "unfortunately, Councilmember Santa Cruz chose to issue a false statement about the incident."
"She is playing fast and loose with the facts, and she knows it," TPOA said. "There was, in fact, no 'horrible incident of police violence.' There was no force used in the incident" and the video will show that, the group said.
"This incident had a truly tragic outcome, but to imply that the officers involved are responsible for the death of the individual involved is inappropriate and reckless," TPOA said in a Facebook post.
"We encourage dialogue and debate. We are asking for, imploring, for our community to remain calm during this time to allow the facts of this case to come to light," TPOA said.
A member of the local Fraternal Order of Police, an organization that doesn't formally represent officers in negotiations with the city, posted on that group's Facebook page in response to Santa Cruz's statement, saying that "trying to force a square peg into a round hole because the current narrative says so is shameful."
"Any death of any community member at anytime is tragic. Leaving out all facts of the case in question is disturbing at best. Police violence caused this death?," the FOP post said. It listed off a series of actions, saying that "0" was the "amount of guns fired," as well as chokeholds, baton strikes, Taser deployments, and fist strikes or kicks.
"I encourage everyone to wait for the official report to be released and then view the video and decide for yourself with all of the facts," it said.
"The officers of the Tucson Police Department have been proudly serving this community for far longer than you ever will ma'am," it said in response to the councilwoman's post. "And while they are not perfect, they strive for perfection everyday and will continue to do so, preferably with your honest support."
TPD shot man during stand-off in March
Earlier this year, a man was shot to death by a TPD officer. Jacob Frausto died March 6 after being shot by a TPD officer after Frausto fired his own gun during a stand-off with the SWAT team. The stand-off began with a domestic violence call.
The April death of the man in Tucson came nearly a month before the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police — an incident that galvanized protests across the nation.
Magnus tweeted on May 26 that the video of Floyd's death showed an "indefensible use of force that good officers everywhere are appalled by. This is contrary to how PROFESSIONAL police officers train & conduct themselves. Conduct like this anywhere makes it more difficult for police everywhere to build community trust."
This original news reporting was partly supported by the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida, which awarded Sentinel Editor Dylan Smith a Brechner Reporting Fellowship to pursue in-depth journalism about government secrecy.