The Tucson Police Chief offered his resignation over the death of a 27-year-old man who was handcuffed and turned face down with a blanket over his head in custody.
Chris Magnus offered his resignation during a press conference on Wednesday, a day after Carlos Ingram-Lopez’s death on April 21 was made public.
Magnus acknowledged that his department had not disclosed the death in time, and said three officers involved in the case had violated department policy. All three officers resigned but would have been fired anyway, Magnus said.
Police had gone to Ingram-Lopez’s house after their grandmother called them saying their grandson was drunk and acting erratically.
Ingram-Lopez stopped breathing while standing on the ground.
A video shown to the press on Wednesday shows Ingram-Lopez running hysterically through a dark garage before officers handcuffed him. The quality of the video is low due to poor lighting, but Ingram-Lopez can be heard telling officers “I can’t breathe,” asking for water on numerous occasions and calling for her nanny, or grandmother, as she lies face down.
Finally, an officer places what appears to be a yellow plastic blanket over his entire body, and adds another blanket soon after.
Ingram-Lopez is heard crying over and over and saying “no” repeatedly while on the ground and covered. After a few minutes, stop making noise or moving.
Officers administered chest compressions before emergency medical personnel declared him dead at the scene. They also administered Narcan, a medication that can reverse the effects of opioid overdose, but is not effective in counteracting the effects of other narcotics.
The Pima County Medical Examiner said Ingram-Lopez had died of sudden cardiac arrest. The office said the man had cocaine in his system, but did not determine a form of death. The report comes as coroners across the country increasingly face scrutiny for highlighting information about drugs and health conditions underlying reports of police killings that suggest the victims were partially guilty of their deaths. The autopsy report also indicated that officers placed a mesh covering, known as a spitting hood, over Ingram-Lopez’s face.
Mayor Regina Romero said she was surprised by Magnus’ offer to resign and that she had to think about it, adding that he had been an “honest and excellent” police chief.
Romero, a Democrat, said she was deeply concerned and outraged by what she saw on video of the incident. She said Ingram-Lopez was clearly distressed and that the police must be held accountable.
“Events like this remind us that even some of the most progressive police departments with some of the most advanced policies and rigorous training are not immune to failure,” said Romero.
The case arose when Americans across the country protest against police brutality. Ingram-Lopez was Hispanic.
Latino community activists say they hear their own stories in the demand for an end to police brutality. Last week in California, the murder of Andrés Guardado, an 18-year-old security guard in Los Angeles, sparked fury in the community among activists.
In separate incidents over four days, law enforcement in the San Francisco Bay Area shot and killed two Latino youths, Sean Monterrosa, 22, and Erik Salgado, 23, both suspected of property crimes.
Nationwide, Latinos accounted for 17.1% of the population, but accounted for 18.3% of police shootings between 2016 and 2018, according to an analysis by CalMatters.
While California recorded more police shootings than any other state between 2015 and 2018, Alaska, New Mexico, and Arizona had the highest fatal shooting rates per 100,000 residents.
The criminal investigation into Ingram-López’s death was sent to the county attorney’s office, which has not yet determined whether to file criminal charges against the officers.
Magnus said he had asked the FBI to investigate. He said that although he was informed the day after Ingram-Lopez’s death, no one in his administration saw the video at the time. He called the failure to make the death public a misstep, but said it was not done with malicious intent.
“I can’t say enough, this is a terrible tragedy and today I had the opportunity to meet with the family to express my condolences and let them know how much I sympathize with the loss of Carlos,” said Magnus.
Magnus previously served as a police chief in Richmond, California, where he received national attention for some of his progressive reform efforts. One of the first openly gay police chiefs in the country, he was widely praised for having a Black Lives Matter poster in 2014 in the early days of the movement, and he also oversaw a violence prevention program that emphasized collaboration with members of the community instead of punishment. .
But the Richmond department was later caught in a major scandal involving officers’ sexual exploitation of a teenage girl. At least six officers were involved, including the agency’s chief of staff.
Some activists have cited Magnus as an example of how liberal reformers have failed to address systemic problems with the police and have been unable to stop cases of brutality and police violence. Earlier this month, faced with calls to fire the Tucson police, Magnus was promoting his record of reform in the Arizona department, saying he had worked closely with community groups and adopted policies that ordered officers to reduce conflicts.