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Durham police chief apologizes for shooting comment

Posted September 6, 2013

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— Police Chief Jose Lopez apologized Friday for any comments he might have made that offended the Durham community and created a wedge between his department and defense attorneys.

City Manager Tom Bonfield is investigating a complaint by Assistant Police Chief Winslow Forbes that includes an allegation that Lopez said a defense attorney wounded in a drive-by shooting in June deserved to be shot.

Lopez said he doesn't recall making the comment, but because he cannot definitively say the comment wasn't made by him or one of his subordinates, he took responsibility for it.

"I can assure you that any comment that may have been made among my peers of this organization concerning the defense attorney was not made with malice, and I apologize if it offended anyone," he said during a news conference. "I would never condone such a comment being made as a personal statement, as an organizational statement or as an opinion."

Lopez called it "regrettable" that Forbes' allegation leaked out, saying it could damage the trust the police department has built in the community in recent years.

"It really does bother me that it would get out of a private meeting and actually hurt someone and bring the unintended consequences that it did," he said.

As part of his investigation, Bonfield interviewed the people who were at the meeting where the comment was allegedly said.

"I can say none of those recollections were thoroughly consistent with the allegation," he said Friday.

Caitlyn Thomson, Forbes' attorney, said Lopez's public apology isn't credible.

"He either said it, or he didn’t. Anybody that said something like that would know if they said it," Thomson said. "I still firmly believe my client that Chief Lopez said exactly what my client alleges he said about the shooting of an innocent attorney bystander in his front yard in Durham, and that’s not acceptable."

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Several defense attorneys wrote letters to city officials condemning the alleged comment, saying it showed a lack of respect for the attorney who was shot and for the service defense attorneys provide in the justice system.

Lopez said such worries are misplaced.

"Law enforcement officers work very closely with attorneys on a daily basis, and I sincerely respect the work that they do," he said. "We all work together to obtain justice for the victims of crimes and to ensure due process for those charged."

He said he doesn't feel that anyone in the department is out to get him by publicizing the allegation, and he and the department are working to maintain the perception that Durham police are committed to improving the community.

City Councilman Eugene Brown called the whole incident "much ado about nothing."

"He made a stupid joke," Brown said. "Who among us have not done that?"

City officials issued a statement Thursday discrediting other allegations made by Forbes that Lopez discriminated against black officers, saying an internal investigation found no evidence to back that up. Officials said an allegation that he violated the city's nepotism policy also was unsubstantiated.

"I can honestly say and adamantly say is that I have not discriminated against anyone here in this organization. Being a man of color, it's not something that I would be doing," Lopez said.

47 Comments

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  • tdhardy Sep 6, 2013

    I doubt there are too many cops who have never made that comment in jest- it is a rather common phrase, meant as a joke. The problem is an assistant chief who obviously has a problem with the chief. Maybe the assistant needs to retire or seek employment elsewhere if he is unable to work with his boss. Durham has enough bad press and problems- a ranking city official should not be adding to the already dirty pot!

  • stymieindurham Sep 6, 2013

    "Not in the context of wishing murder upon or discriminating against others because both are against the law which he swore to uphold."
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    Oh PLEASE, get a life!!!! You know good and well that's not what he meant. I'm glad I don't live in many of your perfect neighborhoods.

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Sep 6, 2013

    injames - "From now on, I think anyone who says anything that offends anyone should be fired. Either that or people need to grow thicker skins. Ridiculous nonsense."

    You realize that would make almost everyone instantly unemployed, cause some people are offended by nearly everything.

  • injameswetrust2003 Sep 6, 2013

    From now on, I think anyone who says anything that offends anyone should be fired. Either that or people need to grow thicker skins. Ridiculous nonsense.

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Sep 6, 2013

    stymieindurham - "Should the Chief not be able to vent around his closest advisors without one of them stabbing him in the back?"

    Not in the context of wishing murder upon or discriminating against others because both are against the law which he swore to uphold.

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Sep 6, 2013

    He's sorry he doesn't remember, or he's sorry he said it, or he's sorry he got caught and reported for saying it?

    Which is it???

  • disgusted2010 Sep 6, 2013

    Yours is a judgement that lacks merit. Provide FACTS that the media is "out of control". If you can't then this is just puffery.
    seankelly15

    No, just my opinion, which I stand by, and unlike you, when I disagree I don't attack the poster.

  • stymieindurham Sep 6, 2013

    There are times when we "all" need to vent. Should the Chief not be able to vent around his closest advisors without one of them stabbing him in the back?

  • stymieindurham Sep 6, 2013

    " . . . . so Ok to bring some one from the outside."
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    Go ahead and do this if you want to kill the morale in a department. Don't you think Forbes has embarrassed the department enough? And, for the investigation to say the allegations are unsubstantiated, he should be fired!!!

  • My GOLO Screen Name Sep 6, 2013

    Stormtrooper,
    Not attempting to disagree, but that's when you see the epitome of nepotism. The chief will protect people who don't need to be protected, promote people who don't need to be promoted, would have to fire/discipline long time friends, and would be pushed to do things he/she shouldnt by people people in the community who have known him/her for decades. I'd like to agree with you because it sounds right, but a lot of times it doesn't work out well

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