- On Wednesday, Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus offered to resign following his department’s handling of the in-custody death of 27-year-old Carlos Ingram Lopez in April.
- The three officers involved that case resigned last Thursday.
- The details of that death were not made public for two months, with them only coming to light after a Tucson City Councilmember raised concerns.
- Now, Mayor Regina Romero is proposing a series of reforms, including immediate public notification of in-custody deaths, a community safety pilot division featuring mental health professionals, and an overhaul of the community police advisory board.
Latino Man Dies in Police Custody
Carlos Ingram Lopez died in Tucson police custody on two months ago, however, details of his death weren’t made public until this week, prompting outrage from the community.
In fact, details only came to light after Tucson Councilmember Lane Santa Cruz refused to participate in a city council meeting on Tuesday without addressing Lopez’s death.
“I will not participate in the Mayor & Council meeting today because of the tragedy and death of one of our community members at the hands of Tucson police officers,” she wrote on Facebook. “I do not take my responsibilities as a council member lightly, and I cannot, in good conscience, sit by and conduct business as usual without addressing this tragedy.”
What followed was a number of responses, including outrage from Mayor Regina Romero for reportedly not being informed of Lopez’s death earlier. The fallout even led to Police Chief Chris Magnus offering to resign.
The incident started when Lopez’s grandmother called the cops to her home around 1:00 a.m. on April 21, claiming that Lopez was drunk, naked, and running around the house. When police arrived, they found Lopez in a distressed state and chased him into a garage.
According to Tucson PD, the three officers who responded to the scene were Jonathan Jackson, Samuel Routledge, and Ryan Starbuck. They reportedly wrestled Lopez to the ground, handcuffed him, and held him face down for 12 minutes.
Now-public footage shows Lopez crying out for his grandmother, pleading for water, and saying he couldn’t breathe. Reportedly, police also placed a mesh spit hood over his head.
Ultimately, Lopez became unresponsive after those 12 minutes, Magnus said. Police then gave him the overdose reversal drug Narcan, believing he had overdosed. According to Magnus, they performed CPR on Lopez, but a short time later, he was pronounced dead on the scene.
An autopsy released Wednesday revealed that Lopez had died from a combination of sudden cardiac arrest involving cocaine intoxication and physical restraint.
On June 18, Jackson, Routledge, and Starbuck resigned.
Why It Took Two Months to Learn Details
After Santa Cruz demanded Lopez’s death be addressed, Romero reportedly watched bodycam footage of the encounter and canceled the city council meeting that same day.
The next day, at a press conference, Romero and the Tucson Police Department publicly released that body cam footage.
“As mayor and as a mother, I am troubled and outraged by what happened,” she said.
“In the video we see a person who is clearly distressed, asking for water, asking for help, asking for his nana,” she added. “Now, we must center the conversation on police accountability and transparency.”
“These officers would have been terminated had they not resigned. I absolutely would have supported that decision.”
At the news conference, Magnus echoed that statement and said all three of the officers involved violated multiple department policies during the arrest.
“All employees have the right to resign at any time,” he said. “However, the files of these officers reflect that the department would have terminated them had they not resigned.”
Still, Magnus refused to discuss what those violations were or provide additional detail, promising to address them in a forthcoming report.
Despite that, Magnus said none of the three officers involved had met established mental health training standards for interacting with individuals he described as having an “excited delirium.”
Currently, the county attorney’s office is reviewing findings from an internal investigation, but it’s yet to make a determination about any possible charges. Magnus said he has also reached out to the FBI and asked them to conduct an independent investigation.
As to why it took two months for the Tucson Police Department to release the details of Lopez’s death, Magnus said he believes it was an error resulting from an unfortunate overlap in timing with coronavirus safety measures.
“This notification should have taken place, but I am confident that there was no purposeful or calculated effort to withhold this information,” he said. “I’ll remind you that this incident took place at the start of the most intense period of the COVID-19 pandemic, and I believe the notification process to the public could have been missed, at least in part, due to some of the chaos that was going on during that period.”
“But nonetheless, public notification should have happened, and we have put steps in place to assure that going forward any in custody is immediately brought to the public’s attention,” he added.
Police Chief Offers to Resign, Mayor Proposes Reforms
At that news conference, Magnus also offered to resign, though it is unclear if Romero or the city council will accept his resignation.
“To demonstrate my willingness to take accountability for these mistakes, I am offering my resignation to the Mayor, City Council, and City Manager, which they can accept or handle as they view appropriate,” he said.
If Magnus does resign, he’ll follow a string of police chiefs who’ve now lost their jobs. In Atlanta, Police Chief Erika Shields resigned following the death of Rayshard Brooks. In Kentucky, Steve Conrad was fired as police chief after officers with the Louisville Metro PoliceDepartment killed a restaurant owner in a shootout that didn’t involve him. In Richmond, William Smith was forced to resign as police chief after being asked by Mayor Levar Stoney.
In the wake of delays around Lopez’s death, Romero has proposed a series of reforms for the city. Among other things, police would be required to immediately inform the mayor, city council, and community of any in-custody death.
Romero also now plans to create a new community safety pilot division, which would integrate mental health professionals and drug-dependency specialists as support services.
Additionally, she plans to expand the role of the city’s community police advisory review board to handle internal investigations—not just external public complaints.
See what others are saying: (AZ Central) (The New York Times) (KGUN)
Florida Breaks Its Record for New Daily COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations
The Sunshine State now accounts for 20% of all new COVID-19 cases nationwide.
Florida Becomes COVID Epicenter
Florida reported 10,207 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Sunday, marking its largest single-day count to date. The grim record comes just one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that the state had counted 21,683 new infections Friday, its highest record of daily cases since the start of the pandemic.
Florida has become the new epicenter of the most recent U.S. outbreaks driven by the delta variant. The state now accounts for one out of every five new cases, and the weekend numbers are highly significant because they surpass previous records that were logged before vaccines were readily available.
Notably, Florida’s vaccination rate is actually the exact same as the nationwide average of 49% fully vaccinated, according to The New York Times tracker. In fact, Florida’s rate is the highest among the top 10 states currently reporting the most COVID cases.
While Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has encouraged Florida residents to get vaccinated, he and the state’s legislature have also made it much harder for local officials to enforce protections to mitigate further spread.
DeSantis Bars Masking in Schools
On the same day that the state reported its highest cases ever, DeSantis signed an executive order banning school districts from requiring students to wear a mask when they go back to school later this month.
The move directly contradicts guidance issued by the CDC last week, which recommended that everyone inside K-12 schools wear a face covering.
DeSantis, for his part, has repeatedly claimed the spikes are part of “seasonal” increases driven by more people being indoors and air-conditioning systems circulating the virus. Still, he argued also Friday that he did not think masks were necessary to prevent children from transmitting COVID in the classroom, where they are inside with air conditioning.
At the same time, last week, Florida reported more than 21,000 infections among children younger than 19.
Florida is not the only state that has banned schools from requiring masks. In fact, many of the states suffering the biggest spikes have done the same, including Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas — which all currently rank among the top 10 states with the highest per capita COVID cases.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (Axios)
Biden to Mandate COVID Vaccines for Federal Workers as CDC Changes Masking Guidance
News of the efforts came on the same day that the U.S. reported more than 100,000 new daily COVID cases for the first time since February.
Federal Vaccine Mandate
President Joe Biden will announce Thursday that all federal employees must get vaccinated against COVID-19 or consent to strict testing and other safety precautions, White House officials told reporters Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, Biden said he was considering the requirement but did not provide any more information.
While the officials also said the details are still being hashed out, they did note that the policy would be similar to ones recently put in place by California and New York City, which respectively required state and city workers to get the jab or submit to regular testing.
Also on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidelines to recommend that Americans who live in areas “of substantial or high transmission,” as well as all students and teachers, wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status.
Delta Causes Spikes, But Vaccines Still Prove Effective
The renewed COVID mitigation efforts come as the delta variant is driving massive surges all over the country.
Coronavirus cases have quadrupled throughout July, jumping from a weekly average of 11,799 on the first day of the month to 63,248 on Tuesday, according to The New York Times tracker. Tuesday also saw new daily infections topping 100,000 for the first time since February, with more than 108,000 reported, per The Times.
While the vast majority of new infections are among people who have not been vaccinated, there have also been increasing reports of breakthrough cases in people who have received the jab.
Those cases, however, do not mean that the vaccines are not effective.
No vaccine prevents 100% of infections. Health officials have said time and time again that the jabs are intended to prevent severe disease and death, and they are doing just that.
According to the most recent data for July 19, the CDC reported that only 5,914 of the more than 161 million Americans who have gotten the vaccine were hospitalized or died from COVID-19 — a figure that represents 0.0036% of vaccinated people.
While safety precautions may be recommended for some people who have received the vaccine, many media narratives have overstated the role breakthrough cases play in the recent spikes. As New York Magazine explains, it is imperative to understand these new mask recommendations are not happening because the vaccine is not effective, but because not enough people are getting the vaccine.
“Because breakthrough infections have so often made the news due to their novelty, that can create a perception of more cases than are actually happening — particularly without more robust tracking of the actual cases to provide context,” the outlet wrote.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNBC)
Wisconsin Police Deny Planting Evidence in Viral Video, Release Their Own Body Cam Footage
The footage police released shows that during a search, officers found a corner tear from a plastic bag inside a backseat passenger’s pocket. An officer then discarded it into the car after determining that it was empty.
Viral Video Appears To Show Officer Planting Evidence
The Caledonia Police Department in Wisconsin has responded to a viral cell phone video that appears to show an officer planting a small plastic baggie inside of a car during a traffic stop.
The now-viral footage was posted to Facebook by a man who goes by GlockBoy Savoo.
The user, who also filmed the clip, wrote in his post’s caption that the officer did this “just to get a reason to search the car” and said the cop didn’t know he was being recorded by the passenger.
Police Shut Down Accusations With Their Own Footage
After that video spread across social media, many were outraged, calling the Caledonia police dirty for seemingly planting evidence. All the outrage eventually prompted the department to announce an investigation Saturday.
Within hours, the department provided an update, claiming that officers didn’t actually plant any evidence or do anything illegal.
Police shared a lengthy summary of events, along with two body camera clips from the incident. That statement explained that the driver of the vehicle was pulled over for going 63 in a 45mph zone.
Two passengers in the backseat who were then spotted without seatbelts were asked to identify themselves and step out of the car. During a search of one passenger’s pockets, an officer pulled out “an empty corner tear” from a plastic baggie.
Police claim the corner tear did not contain any illegal substances, though they said this type of packaging is a common method for holding illegal drugs.
In one body cam clip, an officer can be heard briefly questioning the backseat passenger about the baggie. Then, that piece of plastic gets handed off to different officers who also determined it as empty before the officer in the original viral video discarded it into the back of the car.
The officer can also be seen explaining where the plastic came from to the passenger recording him.
“Aye, bro you just threw that in here!” the front seat passenger says, as heard in his version of the events.
“Yeah, cause it was in his pocket and I don’t want to hold onto it. It’s on their body cam that they took it off of him…I’m telling you where it came from, so. It’s an empty baggie at the moment too, so,” the officer replies.
The department went on to explain that while it would discourage officers from discarding items into a citizen’s car, this footage proves that evidence was not planted.
Authorities also noted that no arrests were made in this incident and the driver was the only one issued a citation for speeding. The statement added that since four officers were present at the scene, police have more than six hours of footage to review but they promised to release the footage in full in the near future.