Nephew of man killed by police: ‘He was a good person’

Aug. 10, 2013 @ 03:10 PM

The 18-year-old nephew of a man shot to death by a Durham police officer last month said his uncle was “a good person” who would often buy him ice cream and candy as a child.

“He was very nice,” said Walter Cardona, who grew up in Phoenix, Ariz., with  his uncle, Jose Adan Cruz Ocampo.

“I mean, it’s really sad,” Cardona said in an interview Friday from Phoenix. “Jose was a father, and now a kid doesn’t have a father any more.”

Cardona, who was in Durham last week with other family members, said Ocampo had a 10-year-old son who lives with his mother in Santa Cruz, Honduras, where Ocampo’s parents and sisters also live.

Ocampo, 33, was fatally shot by Durham officer R.S. Mbuthia the morning of July 27 in the 800 block of Park Avenue in East Durham after police responded to a call and found a man bleeding heavily after apparently being cut on his face with a broken bottle.

Police say Ocampo approached officers with a knife in his hand and repeatedly ignored commands to drop it. The officer shot him multiple times, killing him.

But Cardona said his understanding is that his uncle had wrapped the knife in a bandana or something similar, and was trying to return it to the officer – handle first.

“Police could have used a Taser or Mace,” Cardona said, “because there were three cops against one person, and he was holding the blade. He wasn’t attacking them or anything. I think they overreacted with four shots.”

Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez said Ocampo failed to follow the officer’s orders to raise his hands, and instead advanced with the knife. The shooting is being investigated by the SBI and internally by the Durham Police Department.

In response to a reporter’s question last week, Lopez released more details of the shooting, saying that Ocampo was shot in the head, chest and stomach. He did not say how many shots were fired.

Meanwhile, Ocampo’s body was expected to be buried this weekend in his hometown of Santa Cruz.

Marcia Owen, executive director of the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham, said two of Ocampo’s brothers and three other family members were in Durham last week, making funeral arrangements and grieving their loss.

Owen said a viewing was held last Saturday at Williford Funeral Home in Fuquay-Varina, where a priest said “prayers and petitions.”

She said the family wouldn’t leave Durham until they knew that Ocampo’s body was in the plane at Raleigh-Durham International Airport on its way to Honduras.

Owen said the family had to borrow $5,250 to pay for preparing and shipping Ocampo’s body, leaving them with no gas or food money for their drive back to Arizona.

But the Religious Coalition stepped in with a donation, and the family is now back in Phoenix.

“The family should not bear the personal and financial burden of this unexpected tragedy alone,” Owen said.

A fund at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church has been set up to defray funeral expenses.

“I think they were all shocked,” Owen said of the family’s response to the death. “I never saw the family get angry, but I saw them cry a lot.

“They’re not mean, vindictive people,” she said. “They’re very kind and good, good, good people. I think they were exceedingly perplexed by it. They just never in a million years thought this would happen.”

To contribute to a fund to help defray funeral expenses for Jose Adan Cruz Ocampo, mail a check to Immaculate Conception Catholic Church with “Ocampo family” on the memo line to 901 W. Chapel Hill St., Suite A, Durham, NC 27701. Donations are tax-deductible.