Durham DA: Officer Who Shot Stabbing Suspect Not Criminally Liable

Feb 7, 2014

The Durham district attorney says he will not criminally charge a police officer who fatally shot a knife-wielding stabbing suspect last year.

Durham County Courthouse
Credit North Carolina Court System

District Attorney Leon Stanback said on Thursday that his office found no probable cause for criminal charges in the death of Jose Adan Cruz Ocampo after reviewing records that included a medical autopsy and police car videos and interviewing officers, witnesses and first responders.

An attorney for Ocampo’s family, Scott Holmes, said after the district attorney issued his decision that he will formally request a meeting for  family members with the Durham Police Department, seeking reconciliation and money to offset losses after Ocampo’s death.

Ocampo, who was 33, had been living and working in North Carolina for about four years, sending remittances to a wife and son in a small town in his native Honduras, Holmes said. It was “costly” to repatriate Ocampo’s body for a funeral, Holmes said, though he wouldn’t elaborate on the cost. Donations have been collected for the family through Durham’s Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. The family is disappointed with the district attorney's conclusion, he said.

"They are disappointed with what they belief is a differential application of the law for the police and the people of privilege," he said.

There have been conflicting accounts of how Ocampo died, media reports say. Officers responded on a Saturday morning in July to a call for a stabbing off Holloway Street on Park Avenue, where they found a man who’d been cut in the face, the Herald-Sun reported.

According to police, Ocampo was carrying a kitchen knife and when he refused to drop it, officer Ronald Mbuthia shot him. Ocampo was shot in the head, chest, abdomen and back of his left wrist, the N.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said, according to the WRAL-TV.

But according to Ocampo’s family, Ocampo could not understand the officers’ commands in English to drop the knife and was presenting it to officers by the handle when he was shot.

The person who had been reportedly stabbed was later found to have been wounded with a broken bottle, not a knife, the Herald-Sun reported. He was treated and released from a local hospital.

On Sept. 17, a Durham police officer fatally shot Derek Deandre Walker, 26, after pointing his gun at police in a downtown standoff. On Nov. 19, Jesus Huerta, 17, died in the back of a police cruiser of what police say was a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The district attorney has not said whether he will file charges in that case.