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NCCU Law Clinic Represents Family of Man Fatally Shot by Durham Officers

The Civil Litigation Clinic at the North Carolina Central University School of Law has taken the case for the family of Jose Ocampo, who was fatally shot on Saturday, July 27, 2013, by a Durham Police officer on the 800 block of Park Avenue. 

Representing the Ocampo family is attorney Scott Holmes, director of the Civil Litigation Clinic. Holmes asked for an independent investigation of the shooting by private investigator Steve Hale, former head of the Wake County Sheriff’s Homicide Department. Holmes said that the initial findings of the investigation, based on three independent eyewitness accounts, establish that Ocampo was waiting at the front of his residence to talk with officers about a prior altercation. As three police officers arrived, one noticed that Ocampo had a kitchen knife in his back pocket, and the officer announced to the other two officers the presence of the knife. At least two of the officers then drew their weapons, and ordered Ocampo to throw down the knife. According to the witnesses, Ocampo then took the knife from his pocket by the blade and presented the handle of the knife to the officer standing in front of him. A witness yelled to Ocampo, in Spanish, to throw the knife down. As he was handing the officer the handle of the knife, one of officers shot Ocampo, striking him multiple times in the chest. He died at the scene. The three civilian witnesses were interviewed by law enforcement, and reportedly gave this same information to Durham officers.

Holmes said it is his opinion, based upon the facts found by the private investigator, that the Durham officer was not justified in using lethal force. “It is unreasonable to believe that a person presenting the handle of a knife posed a threat of death or imminent bodily harm,” Holmes said. “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.”

Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez’s public statement of July 30 did not include the information from the eyewitnesses at the scene, Holmes said. “In his statement, Chief Lopez apparently relied only upon the statements provided by the officers involved in the shooting. It is disappointing that Chief Lopez would release an incomplete version of events before the finalization of the investigation being conducted by the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) and the internal affairs investigation that he said was being conducted by his own department.”

Jose Adan Cruz Ocampo was the youngest of three brothers. His wife and young son live in a small town in Honduras. He was working in the United States to send money to support them. “He was an honest and loving man,” Holmes said.

Because Mr. Ocampo was killed by a police officer, the Ocampo family is not receiving the services normally accorded to victims of a homicide. A fund to support the family, and to pay for funeral expenses and the cost of shipping Mr. Ocampo’s body to Honduras for burial, has been established at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. Contributions may be sent to the church. Checks should be made payable to "Immaculate Conception Catholic Church," and note "Ocampo Family" in the memo field. The mailing address is Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Attn: Katushka Olave, 901A W. Chapel Hill St., Durham, NC 27701.

A community vigil is being planned for Sunday, Aug. 4 at 7 p.m. at 804 Park Ave. in Durham. Bringing flowers and candles to the vigil is consistent with the tradition of the Ocampo family and Honduran culture. 

Published: Friday, August 02, 2013
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