Durham police officer won't be charged in man's shooting death
Posted February 6
Durham, N.C. — The Durham District Attorney’s Office said Thursday there is no probable cause to charge a Durham police officer who shot and killed a man he encountered while investigating a crime scene last summer.
Officer Ronald Mbuthia was investigating a report of a stabbing in the 800 block of Park Avenue on July 27 when he and other officers found Jose Adan Cruz Ocampo nearby, holding a knife. Police said officers ordered Ocampo to drop the knife, but he refused.
He was shot four times in the head, chest, abdomen and left wrist, according to an autopsy. The shot to the head was fatal.
District Attorney A. Leon Stanback said his office thoroughly reviewed the autopsy, video recordings, interviews with authorities, physical evidence and other items collected in the state's investigation, and he found no grounds to charge Mbuthia.
"We consider every case on its own merits," he said. "It is what it is. The truth is the light. We seek to bring out the truth in every case as best as we have determined it to be, and we think we have done that in this case."
Scott Holmes, an attorney representing Ocampo’s family, has said the police account of what happened is inconsistent with witness statements.
He said an outside investigation done at his request by private investigator Steve Hale, a former head of the Wake County Sheriff’s Office Homicide Division, determined that Ocampo was waiting in front of his home to talk with officers about a prior altercation, and at least two officers drew their guns on him when one noticed he had a kitchen knife in his back pocket.
Witnesses said when Ocampo was ordered to drop the knife, he pulled it out of his pocket and turned the handle toward the officers.
Holmes said Thursday that Durham police used excessive force and should be held accountable for Ocampo's death.
"In case after case, the Durham police are too quick to escalate situations with excessive force," Holmes said. "With a more measured approach, Jose would be alive today.
"In the shadow of concerns about racial profiling and the unequal application of our laws for the poor and people of color in our community, the City should follow the lead of other cities and explore a restorative justice approach to help heal the Ocampo family's loss and the systemic fractures within our community," he said.
Ocampo had a wife and three children in Honduras and was working in the U.S. to support them, Holmes said.
He said Ocampo's family is sad, frustrated and angry at the decision.
"They wonder why it has taken so long to investigate this case," Holmes said. "And they feel very keenly the difference in treatment for folks who have privilege and those who don't."
Mbuthia was on paid administrative leave pending the conclusion of the investigation. Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez said Thursday that Mbuthia was on paid administrative duty.
"First of all, I want to express my sympathies to the Ocampo family during this difficult time," he said. "I would like to thank the State Bureau of Investigation for taking the necessary time to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation of the case."
Lopez also thanked the community for patience during the investigation. He said the department is still conducting an internal investigation to ensure polices and procedures were followed.