July 9, 2020

TPD releases reports for four in-custody deaths

The reports include a second death this year and three more in the last decade.

TPD Tucson Police Sign Hero The sign at the downtown Tucson Police Department station, South Stone Avenue.
Nick O'Gara/AZPM

The more than 1,000 pages of documents and videos cover four in-custody deaths for the Tucson Police Department. One death took place in March of this year, the others occurred in 2012 and 2010.

The Tucson police department came under scrutiny recently when it was revealed Carlos Ingram Lopez died in their custody in April. Part of the public scrutiny about the case was the fact that the incident was kept quiet for two months. The in-custody death of Ingram Lopez was the second of the year for the Tucson police department, in March another man died in police custody.

On Wednesday night, TPD released the records tied to in-custody deaths for the last ten years requested by AZPM and other news organizations

All four cases involved a male in TPD custody being handcuffed. Most also involved drug use.

The case in March involved the death of Damien Alvarado. He allegedly ran from the scene of an auto accident and fought with officers for a number of minutes before being handcuffed and having his legs restrained also. He was also hit was a Taser before he was restrained. Unlike the April death of Ingram Lopez, Alvarado was rolled on his side after about a minute and a half. Paramedics from Tucson Fire arrived to check him after the altercation and determine whether or not he should go to the hospital or jail. The paramedics cleared him but while they were getting ready to leave officers noted Alvarado was not breathing and began CPR. The paramedics returned and took him to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The autopsy listed cause of death as “accidental” due to sudden cardiac arrest brought on by restraint and high levels of methamphetamine and other drugs.

The first 2012 case involved a man who fled from a domestic violence call. He was caught at a nearby convenience store where he resisted officers. He was Tased and handcuffed. Paramedics were called to check on the man once he was in custody and then found him sitting, handcuffed on a curb surrounded by officers. When the paramedics attempted to check him, he reportedly became combative and was placed face down so fire fighters could get his vital signs. The man then stopped breathing and went into cardiac arrest. CPR was administered and he was taken to the hospital and pronounced dead. The police did not release and autopsy with that case.

The second 2012 case involved a man who was found hitting his head against the ground. Police officers handcuffed him to stop him, they also restrained his legs. Paramedics took him to the hospital where he went into cardiac arrest and died. The medical examiner ruled the death an accident and said it was related to the man’s long history of drug use.

The 2010, case involved a man who was restrained and placed face down on a fire department gurney while he was taken to the hospital. He was also handcuffed and had his legs restrained. During transport to the hospital, he went into cardiac arrest. He was revived but later died at the hospital. In that case, manner of death was listed as “homicide,” cause of death was listed as homicide caused by cocaine and alcohol intoxication and “struggle with physical restraint.” Neck compression was noted in the autopsy but when asked by investigators no officer, firefighter, or paramedic said they pressed on the man’s neck. No charges were filed against the officers.

The information released by the police department includes body camera video for three of the four cases. Last week, TPD said it will now release video and other information to the public within 24 hours of an in-custody death.

By posting comments, you agree to our
AZPM encourages comments, but comments that contain profanity, unrelated information, threats, libel, defamatory statements, obscenities, pornography or that violate the law are not allowed. Comments that promote commercial products or services are not allowed. Comments in violation of this policy will be removed. Continued posting of comments that violate this policy will result in the commenter being banned from the site.

By submitting your comments, you hereby give AZPM the right to post your comments and potentially use them in any other form of media operated by this institution.
AZPM is a service of the University of Arizona and our broadcast stations are licensed to the Arizona Board of Regents who hold the trademarks for Arizona Public Media and AZPM. We respectfully acknowledge the University of Arizona is on the land and territories of Indigenous peoples.
The University of Arizona