Local News

Durham police officer won't be charged in man's shooting death

Posted February 6, 2014

— 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.


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  • JustOneGodLessThanU Feb 7, 2014

    To those questioning this report, it sounds like you're saying this...

    All of these people in this story are lying. The videos were all altered. The EMTs are covering up for the cops. The neighbors all hated this man and made up the same story to tell the police. Someone planted the knife to make this guy look guilty. The police just came and gunned down this guy, because they love killing people.

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Feb 6, 2014

    I wonder what the actual truth is.
    We know witnesses will often skew what they saw if it puts one of their loved ones in a bad light.
    But we know cops aren't always honest either.
    Prayers for those who loved Ocampo, and the cops who felt they had to shoot him to protect themselves and others perhaps.

  • Jump1 Feb 6, 2014

    "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. As a former LEO, what would he have done? Most likely the same thing. Also did Holmes retire or was he released?

  • LawHelps Feb 6, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Easy in the checkpoint he should have just handed him his license. Also this kid had no idea about a K-9 or Probable cause. That's all that needs to be said.

  • disgusted2010 Feb 6, 2014

    Just listened to the news report. Perhaps Durham should disband the police department and let the people be protected by the liberal lawyers, anti's and news media. SInce they know better how to do the police's job they can obviously do a better job and the minorities would feel safer.

  • disgusted2010 Feb 6, 2014

    Love how those that hide behind the First Amendment deny others that right.

  • Jump1 Feb 6, 2014

    Good call by the DA, but you still have the mayor to deal with and he will demand answers that he likes.

  • stymieindurham Feb 6, 2014

    Due to the continued presence of ballistic vests being worn by "others", like it or not, many law enforcement are taught "one to center mass and one to the head".

  • stymieindurham Feb 6, 2014

    " . . . first goal should be to get his attention by shooting him in the legs . . . ."

    You obviously should stick to dispensing prozak (ProzacDispenser). You know nothing about law enforcement and the use of force continum.

  • Bullcity34 Feb 6, 2014

    Yeah I'm sure these so called witnesses of police wrongdoing are great up standing members of society. And I'm sure the officer just shot him for no reason even though there is video evidence. This is a joke. The only one I feel sorry for is the officer. Glad he made it home