Tucson Chief Offers To Resign Over Officers’ Actions During Call That Ended In Death

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero and Police Chief Chris Magnus

The April death of a 27-year-old Tucson man while handcuffed and restrained by police led Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus to offer his resignation during a press conference Wednesday after he announced three officers violated department policies in handling a call about a naked man yelling and running around inside a house.

Carlos Adrian Ingram-Lopez died at 2:06 a.m. April 21, less than one hour after his grandmother called for police assistance with her grandson. The autopsy report prepared by Pima County’s Office of the Medical Examiner noted the cause of death as “sudden cardiac arrest in the setting of acute cocaine intoxication and physical restrained.”

The examination also revealed Ingram-Lopez had heart disease and an enlarged liver.

What the medical examiner could not determine, according to the autopsy report, was whether Ingram-Lopez’s death was due to natural causes, an accident, or homicide.

Public records show that on June 23, Magnus signed off on an administrative review report that recommended TPD officers Jonathan Jackson, Samuel Routledge, and Ryan Starbuck to be terminated for alleged violations of department policy for keeping Ingram-Lopez face down on a cement floor with his hands cuffed behind him for 12 minutes, much of the time with an officer’s knee pressing on his back.

The three officers cannot be fired, however, as they resigned last week. A separate criminal investigation is ongoing, and it will be up to the Pima County Attorney’s Office to press charges, if warranted.

“It is important to note that there is no indication of malicious intent, nor did any of the officers deploy strikes, use chokeholds, or place a knew on Mr. Ingram-Lopez’s neck,” Magnus noted.

Despite that, the chief announced during Wednesday’s press conference that the three officers “failed to handle the incident consistent with their training” for responding to calls involving mental health first aid issues for people suspected of suffering medical issues due to likely drug use.

On Wednesday TPD also released a video showing the officers’ interaction with Ingram-Lopez. It also shows efforts being made to revive Ingram-Lopez once it’s determined he is unresponsive.

“The investigation revealed a series of actions by each of the three focus officers that showed completed disregard for the training provided to each, disregard for established policy, but most importantly an apparent indifferent or inability to recognize an individual in medical distress and take appropriate action to mitigate the distress,” according to the internal review report.

Documents related to the April 21 incident show Ingram-Lopez did not threaten the responding officers, but he did run into a garage which contained a vehicle, making it difficult for officers to detain him. He was also naked and did not cooperate with being handcuffed.

Once handcuffed, Ingram-Lopez was physically restrained on the floor of the garage for the next 12 minutes. About two minutes after his last audible sound, Ingram-Lopez was repositioned by the officers into what’s called a recovery position. It was then that officers initiate CPR and call for medical assistance.

Various medical intervention efforts were undertaken, including the administration of Narcan but Ingram-Lopez died at the scene. His death garnered little public attention until this week when it was revealed the three officers resigned in advance of the release of the internal review report and termination recommendation.

According to the report, TPD officers are “trained extensively on the signs/symptoms of excited delirium” because it presents a high probability of death. And that Ingram-Lopez “was naked, sweating, speaking gibberish, hallucinating, and showing all the signed of excited delirium.”

But the officers never discussed changing their posturing or repositioning Ingram-Lopez even though he was handcuffed and had nowhere to go inside the garage.

“The initial call description of a male with no clothes who was acting aggressively should have been recognized as a possible excited delirium case,” the report noted.

As part of the review report, TPD released the three officers’ training records, which showed they all attended classes in the last few years related to responding to calls of people experiencing medical issues from drug use. They also attended an advanced class last year on the use of a recovery position with a detainee in order to avoid serious injury or death.

Magnus noted in his statement Wednesday that each of the six officers who responded to the April 21 call took part in an interview as part of the review and “cooperated fully.” The other three officers were found to have complied with department policies in their actions that morning.

Magnus became Tucson’s top cop in January 2016 after serving as the chief in Fargo, North Dakota and then Richmond, California. Because the chief serves in an appointed capacity, his resignation must be formally accepted by Mayor Regina Romero.

As of Wednesday evening, the mayor had not decided what action to take, her office told reporters.