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Ingram-Lopez family wants Magnus to stay, city manager rejects TPD chief's resignation

Mayor, members of Council back Tucson's top cop as controversy builds over man's death in police custody

Police Chief Chris Magnus should not resign, said the family of Carlos Adrian Ingram-Lopez, who died while being restrained by police in April. Tucson's city manager turned down the offer, made as controversy swirls after the revelation of the death.

Mayor Regina Romero said that City Manager Mike Ortega should refuse to accept the resignation, as did several City Council members.

A statement from the city said that Ortega "received support for Magnus from the majority of the Council members."

Councilman Steve Kozachik said the manager "exercised his authority" and rejected the move. "I, along with 4 of my colleagues, support that decision," he said.

Eduardo Coronado, an attorney representing the family called the death of Ingram-Lopez "devastating," but told TucsonSentinel.com that the man's mother did not want Magnus to resign.

"The chief of police wasn't there, and we want to know what actions he's taking now, afterwards and how the department can improve the flow of information to us, and the public," Coronado said.

Related: TPD chief offers to resign as details revealed about Ingram-Lopez death in police custody

Coronado said that the family's "biggest concern" is that Ingram-Lopez will be "reduced" to the man shown in the body-cam footage released Wednesday. Coronado said that he knew Ingram-Lopez since he was a small child, and that the 27-year-old man was a "young man with a kind heart, that expressed nothing but love to everyone, including his Nana."

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"He had a young daughter that he loved, he was engaged, he loved his mom, his siblings, his cousins and he was very supportive of his family's accomplishments. There's more to Adrian beyond those minutes," Coronado said.

Ortega believes chief's 'leadership is exactly what we need'

"Under Chief Magnus' leadership, our police department has developed into one of the most progressive in the country," said Ortega in an email to the Council. "We still have work to do to continue transforming our police department to meet our community's expectations. I believe Chris' leadership is exactly what we need during these difficult times."

Magnus had announced he was willing to leave during a press conference Wednesday that provided the first details about the April 21 incident in which the man died.

"In this moment, my focus is on the fact that the life of a fellow Tucsonan, Carlos Adrian Ingram-Lopez, was needlessly lost," Romero said in a news release Thursday afternoon. "The chief's abrupt announcement at the press conference yesterday should not take away from that."

The death of Ingram-Lopez on April 21 was first revealed to the public by TucsonSentinel.com in a news report Tuesday. Details were not provided by police or city officials until Wednesday morning. Many public records about the case requested by the Sentinel on Tuesday morning have yet to be provided by officials

Under the City Charter, it was up to City Manager Mike Ortega to accept or refuse the offer by the police chief.

But the manager reports to the mayor and City Council, so their opinions carry weight.

Questioned by the Sentinel, Ortega declined to comment Wednesday.

"I don't want to talk about this now. I'll let you know," he said.

Related: TPD chief offers to resign as details revealed about Ingram-Lopez death in police custody

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"After listening to the feedback of my colleagues on the Council, I do not believe the chief should resign," Romero said Thursday.

Kozachik said that Ortega's move to keep Magnus "affirms the proper, Charter-driven role of the city manager, and it sends a strong message of support from a super-majority of the Council for the chief."

"Everyone on the City Council is heartbroken at the loss of life we've all viewed in the in-custody video. There were mistakes made. Nobody has tried to hide that, and all facets of the case have been, and continue to be investigated," he said.

Romero said she would push for changes in the Police Department.

"Chief Magnus has brought forward thinking changes to TPD policies, practices and trainings, and has built strong relationships with our community since he joined the department in 2016," she said. "Now is the time to work together and rebuild public trust in our police department by increasing transparency, ensuring accountability, and re-imagining how we provide safety to our community. I look forward to working with Chief Magnus to accomplish these reforms."

Magnus offered his resignation Wednesday at a news conference in which details were finally released about the April death of 27-year-old Carlos Adrian Ingram-Lopez while being restrained by police.

Romero's jaw dropped as he announced he was putting his resignation on the table. Other city staffers were equally surprised.

Magnus told reporters that as a demonstration of his "willingness to take accountability, I am offering my resignation to the mayor, City Council and city manager."

Romero said she was surprised by the resignation offer.

"I did not know he was going to offer his resignation. I cannot impose my thoughts on what his decision has been," she said during the Wednesday press conference. "Chief Magnus has been ... a great police chief for the city of Tucson," she said, saying she would "think about what he's presented to the public" in offering to leave his position.

During the press conference, Romero called for several police reforms, including "immediate notification" of fatal police incidents. "People are mad, people are disappointed, people are outraged — and rightfully so," she said.

A portion of the body-cam footage of the incident was played for reporters at the press conference, including the moments when officers restraining Ingram-Lopez realized he was non-responsive.

Coronado, the family's attorney, said that Ingram-Lopez's relatives remain "distraught" over the loss, but the video's release was especially hard because they viewed it only hours before it was released to the public during a press conference on Wednesday.

"The family has had time to react, as the rest of the world has had time to react," Coronado said. "They're just trying to cope, but they are bothered by the delay."

Ingram-Lopez's mother was upset that she got to view it two hours before, Coronado said. "It's better than watching it with the rest of the world, but not very good."

As TucsonSentinel.com first reported, the three officers who were first on the scene resigned last week before they could be fired.

Samuel Routledge, Ryan Starbuck and Jonathan Jackson quit before they could be fired by the department. The specific policy violations cited in the report's determination that the three officers should be removed from the force were: "212: Failure to Take Appropriate Action," "207: Use of Force (Other)," and "405: Actions on Duty." Those allegations were each found to be sustained by the investigation.

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The case, first reported to the public by TucsonSentinel.com, has been referred to the Pima County Attorney's Office for potential prosecution of the officers, Magnus said. The chief also said he has asked the FBI to review the case.

The three handed in their resignations on Thursday — 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.

Council reactions to resignation offer

Councilman Paul Cunningham told the Sentinel Wednesday afternoon that "I have already asked the chief not to resign."

"While the incident for April is tragic and demonstrates the need for police reform, our chief has a track record of being community-oriented and as a reformer," Cunningham said after the press conference. "I think it would be a mistake to let Chief Magnus go."

Councilwoman Lane Santa Cruz, who has engaged in a vigorous debate with police groups about Ingram-Lopez's death over the last two days, said that "If Chief Magnus wants to leave, that's on him. Tucson is our home. Leaving for us is not an option."

Councilman Steve Kozachik also said that Magnus should remain. "I think he's a great fit for Tucson and he has my full support. His people let him down but that doesn't mean he should be let go," he told the Sentinel on Wednesday.

'Appropriate justice will be afforded the victims in this case," he said Thursday. "The reality is that Chief Magnus has both supported, and in fact initiated those internal reviews. He is to be commended for that transparency and willingness to hold police accountable."

"It speaks highly of the city manager to recognize the input he has received both from the City Council, the public, and from the family of the deceased for taking quick action to retain our chief. We face difficult budget and policy challenges. Chief Magnus deserves to see the support of a super-majority of the Council as we continue to address those issues," Kozachik said.

Councilwoman Nikki Lee did not specifically endorse Magnus remaining on the job, but said "I support what Chief Magnus has done to transform the Tucson Police Department. This case shows there is more work to be done, and I believe he and his leadership team are the right individuals to lead us through this tough time" in a Facebook post Wednesday.

The other members of the Council, Councilman Richard Fimbres and Paul Durham, could not be reached and have not offered any public comments.

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.

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have your say   

2 comments on this story

2
6 comments
Jul 1, 2020, 10:52 am
- +

The decision whether to terminate Chief Magnus contract requires calm deliberation with all the facts before the City Manager, Mayor and Council, and the citizens of Tucson. We don’t have them yet, and might not have any but for your excellent reporting. I have great sympathy for the Ingram-Lopez family whose perspective must be one important factor, but the issue goes beyond their terrible personal loss. We must articulate what kind of police force we want and determine whether Magnus (and this police union), with citizen oversight, is capable of going us there.

1
5 comments
Jun 25, 2020, 5:55 pm
- +

ROMERO AND MAGNUS MUST BOTH RESIGN.
INCOMPENT LEADERSHIP.

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Carlos Adrian Ingram-Lopez and his daughter.

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