Local News

NCCU lawyer says Durham police shooting unjustified

Posted August 2, 2013
Updated August 6, 2013

— Six days after Durham police shot and killed a man they said wielded a knife at officers, a lawyer for the man's family says his independent investigation of the incident contradicts the police account.

Jose Adan Cruz Ocampo was fatally shot in the 800 block of Park Avenue last Saturday morning as police investigated a reported stabbing about a block away.

Police said they ordered Ocampo to drop a knife he was carrying and that Officer R.S. Mbuthia fired only after Ocampo refused.

Scott Holmes, director of the Civil Litigation Clinic at the North Carolina Central University School of Law, who is representing Ocampo's family, said Friday that eyewitness accounts of the shooting don't jibe with the police account.

Holmes 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 that, when he was ordered to drop the knife, he pulled it out of his pocket and turned the handle toward the officers, witnesses said.

One witness yelled to Ocampo, in Spanish, to throw the knife down, but as he was handing one officer the handle of the knife, Mbuthia shot him in the chest.

“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 in a statement. “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.”

Mbuthia is on administrative leave, pending the outcome of a State Bureau of Investigation review of the incident, which is standard procedure in any officer-involved shooting.

Ocampo has a wife and three children in Honduras, the lawyer said, and he was working in the U.S. to support them. "He was an honest and loving man," Holmes said.


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  • rdusecret Aug 8, 2013

    I think those criticizing the officer forget that OCAMPO hit a guy in the face with a beer bottle and then stabbed someone with a large kitchen knife. the police didnt randomly approach him for smelling his neighbors flowers. he just stabbed someone in NC thats assault with a deadly weapon..

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Aug 7, 2013

    Where does it say that this man is here illegally? Sheesh. Do you really believe that all Latinos are breaking the law? Wow.

  • stymieindurham Aug 5, 2013

    "How honest can an illegal immigrant be? Seriously? Move on and quit with all this. The man was armed. The cop felt threatened, he was here illegally so he has no rights and neither does his family."

    WOW!!! What party are you affiliated with. I'd like to join.

  • stymieindurham Aug 5, 2013

    " . . . a lawyer for the man's family says an independent investigation of the incident is needed."

    The leech lawyer must not be very well read. There IS an outside investigation. It's called the "SBI"!!!!

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Aug 5, 2013

    A friend in Greensboro was confronted by an armed robber. The guy asked for his wallet. My friend shrugged and reached into his back pocket to get his wallet. They guy shot him (in the arm) and then ran.

    Gotta love people who shoot you for doing what you ask...

  • alwaysconcernedmom Aug 5, 2013

    How honest can an illegal immigrant be? Seriously? Move on and quit with all this. The man was armed. The cop felt threatened, he was here illegally so he has no rights and neither does his family.

  • NoWayOut Aug 2, 2013

    1 question........how much of any language do I need to speak to know that a man with a gun pointed at me doesn't like what im doing so maybe......just maybe I should refrain from that action. WALK UP PEOPLE>>>>>U LIVE IN NORTH CAROLINA, BUT THIS AIN'T MAYBERRY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Yes I used the word AIN'T ;)

  • NoWayOut Aug 2, 2013

    Of course the family is gonna say they used excessive force! Blood is thicker than water so don't expect them to say anything negative about this guy. Sorry he's dead but if he was so innocent, why didn't he put the knife somewhere close to point it out to the officers rather than conceal it in his back pocket. Some days I wish this country could experience 24 hours with no police presence at all. Just give bad people 24 hours to do what they want. Maybe then the people who sit behind a desk and go home to their beautiful, secure neighborhoods would gain a better sense of reality.

  • Alexia.1 Aug 2, 2013

    I really get angry when I hear a police officer shoots somebody merely for not following a verbal order. In this case, perhaps there was a language issue. Did he even understand? And what if the person was deaf? Do officers just shoot deaf people for not hearing?

  • Alexia.1 Aug 2, 2013

    "I am assuming at least three other police officers witnessed the matter so there should be plenty of evidence of what happened." --Tax Man

    Oh, that's rich. Yeah, if you've not noticed, police offers involved in misconduct seem to stick together on one story. We've read these kinds of stories all over America.