- 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)
Mother and Boyfriend Charged After Abandoning 3 Children in Apartment With Sibling’s Remains
Authorities said the malnourished children had been living in the unit without their parents for months.
Abandoned Children Discovered in Houston
Police in Texas arrested a mother and her boyfriend on Tuesday after finding the woman’s three children abandoned in an apartment unit with the remains of their sibling.
Authorities found the 7-, 10-, and 15-year-old boys on Sunday when the teen called police to report that his brother had been dead for a year and that his body was in the unit.
When authorities arrived at the scene, they found the children living in “deplorable conditions.” Police also found the skeletal remains of an 8-year-old, who they emphasized had been decomposing for an extended period of time.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said the boys were fending for each other, with the eldest doing his best to care for the younger ones. According to the teen, his parents hadn’t been living in the apartment with them for months.
Gonzales called it one of the most shocking cases he had ever seen in all his years in law enforcement, and many are now asking how these kids could have been suffering for so long without anyone ever noticing.
Signs That Went Unnoticed
The Daily Beast reported that the kids hadn’t been attending school since May 2020, claiming that the school even conducted an unsuccessful home visit in September of that year.
On top of that, the children had been without power for several weeks, with one neighbor telling local reporters that the teen would often charge his phone at her place.
Another neighbor, Erica Chapman, said she had once found the teen sleeping on a playground slide, so she gave him some food and drinks.
“I asked him if he was hungry. He said, ‘Yeah,’ and I brought him out some food and some drinks,” Chapman told KHOU.
She said he “wouldn’t talk about his parents,” and she didn’t push because she wanted him to feel safe coming to her if he needed food. Chapman added that she would drop off food at the apartment sometimes but said it was hard to tell what was going on inside.
Police also described a foul odor coming from the unit, which a different neighbor said she complained to management about more than once. That woman claimed the smell was so vile, she could not turn on her air conditioning.
Dianne Davis, who lived in the complex for two years, told The Houston Chronicle that the building manager performs regular inspections on the units, with the most recent one happening last week.
“How come they couldn’t detect this?” Davis told the paper. “How could that not have been found?”
Mother and Boyfriend Face Charges
According to Child Protective Services (CPS), the agency does have a history with the family, but there was no active investigation at the time the kids were discovered.
After they were found, the boys were treated at a hospital and placed with CPS while the agency seeks emergency custody of them.
At the hospital, doctors discovered fractures in the 7-year-old face and said two of the three boys were malnourished. Meanwhile, the medical examiner’s office said the deceased child suffered multiple blunt force injuries and ruled his death a homicide.
Police located the mother, 35-year-old Gloria Williams, and her boyfriend, 31-year-old Brian Coulter, on Sunday. They were interviewed and initially released without charges.
ABC13 reported that the teen texted his mother, who lived just 15 minutes, before calling the police.
On Tuesday, the couple was finally arrested while allegedly reading articles about themselves at a library. Williams, faces multiple charges, including injury to a child by omission and tampering with evidence involving a human corpse.
Meanwhile, Coulter was charged with murder over the death of the child, though both he and Williams are expected to face more charges as investigators continue to unpack the details of this case.
See what others are saying: (The Houston Chronicle) (The Daily Beast) (The Washington Post)
Man Spent COVID Relief Loan on $58,000 Pokemon Card, Feds Say
The man is facing a wire fraud charge, which carries a max sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, along with a $250,000 fine.
COVID Relief Funds Used on Pokemon Card
Authorities have accused a man in Georgia of misusing COVID-19 relief funds, claiming that he spent $57,789 on a single Pokemon card.
Prosecutors said Vinath Oudomsine made false statements about the gross revenue his business earns and the number of workers he employs when he applied for aid authorized under the CARES Act.
On his July 2020 application, Oudomsine allegedly claimed he had 10 employees and 12-month gross revenues of $235,000.
The following month, he was given about $85,000 from the Small Business Administration (SBA), which means he spent nearly all of the money on the rare card.
Authorities have given few details about the specific card purchased, though they have said Oudomsine was charged with wire fraud and is expected to appear in court on Thursday.
The charge carries a max sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, along with a $250,000 fine.
Misuse of COVID Relief Funds
Oudomsine is far from the first person to face charges for fraud related to small business loans issued amid the pandemic. Others who received relief funds have been accused of spending the money on Lamborghinis, nights at strip clubs, and even an alpaca farm, among other purchases.
In fact, the first person to be charged with fraudulently seeking a pandemic relief loan was recently sentenced to 56 months in prison following a nationwide search after the man faked his own death.
According to The Washington Post, a federal watchdog said this month that the SBA overpaid $4.5 billion in grants to self-employed people and that “no system of controls was in place to flag applications with flawed or illogical information.”
On top of that, the SBA inspector general determined earlier this year that the agency rushed to send out billions of dollars in loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) “at the expense of controls” that could have blocked inappropriate aid.
In a statement on Sunday, the agency said that under the Biden administration, it has worked with Congress and the inspector general to add antifraud measures. Meanwhile, defenders of pandemic relief programs have argued that flagged loans and grants represent only a small fraction of the distributed aid that has been critical to small businesses and their pandemic recovery.
See what others are saying: (NPR)(USA Today)(The Washington Post)
FDA Authorizes Moderna and J&J COVID Vaccine Boosters, Approves Mix-and-Match Doses
The approval will allow at-risk Americans who received Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to get any booster six months after their initial series and all Johnson & Johnson recipients 18 and older to do the same two months after their single-shot dose.
New FDA Authorization
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized boosters shots of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines and approved a mix-and-match strategy that will allow people who got one company’s shot to get a booster from a different maker.
The decision paves the way for millions of more at-risk Americans to get extra protection, and not just certain Pfizer recipients as previously approved by the FDA.
Under the authorization, people who received Moderna or Pfizer can get any one of the three booster shots six months after completing their initial series if they are 65 and older, at high risk of severe COVID, or face increased exposure because of their work.
Meanwhile, all J&J recipients 18 and older can get any of the approved vaccines two months after they received the one-shot jab.
Hazy Recommendations, For Now
Notably, the FDA did not recommend a certain combination of vaccines, nor did the agency say whether or not it would be more effective for people to stick with their original vaccine maker for their booster.
The new authorizations draw on a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which found that there are no safety concerns with mixing boosters and that vaccine combinations were at least as effective in stimulating antibodies as matched vaccines.
In the case of J&J recipients, the NIH found that people actually had a higher boost from mixing either Moderna or Pfizer boosters.
However, some of the scientists who worked on the study said it should not be used to recommend one combination over another because the research was limited.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which determines vaccine recommendations, could issue more guidance on when and whether people should switch vaccine makers for their booster shots.
An advisory panel for the agency is meeting Thursday to discuss the new FDA authorizations and recommendations.
Once the panel makes its decision, the CDC director has the final say on the guidelines. If the agency agrees with the FDA’s decisions, the booster shots could be rolled out as soon as this weekend.