DA: No charges against officers related to in-custody death in Richmond

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The Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office will not file charges against Richmond police officers in connection with the in-custody death of Jose Luis Lopez on March 17, 2020.

The DA’s Office investigated the incident and developed the Law Enforcement Involved Fatal Incident (LEIFI) report, which is protocal when police officers or civilians are shot or die during law enforcement encounters. If criminal liability exists in such encounters, the DA has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that a death was not justified.

In Lopez’s death, the LEIFI report conluded there was “no evidence of criminal offense” committed by RPD officers when detaining him, according to the DA’s Office (See the full report here).

 “As such, the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office will take no further action in this case,” the DA’s Office said.  

On March 17, 2020, Richmond police responded to a domestic violence call involving Lopez and a female victim with whom he was in a relationship. Police were told Lopez was high on drugs and was in a physical altercation with the victim.

Officers arrived to find the victim partially naked and wrapped in a blanket, with Lopez walking into another room in an agitated state. When an officer attempted to apprehend him, Lopez tensed up and resisted, leading to a struggle where Lopez at one point grabbed the officer’s firearm, according to the report. Other officers intervened and Lopez bit two of them and pushed away others.

According to the DA’s investigation, it took about 11 officers to physically detain Lopez, who resisted taser and baton strikes during the struggle. After being detained, he remained audibly agitated and responding paramedics administered a sedative to calm him, which appeared to have worked.

Once in an ambulance, Lopez went into cardiac medical distress and although he was able to be stablized at a hospital emergency room, his condition deteriorated days later and he died the morning of March 19.

Following an autopsy the following day, a Coroner’s Office forensic pathologist determined the cause of death to be complications from cocaine toxicity, according to the DA’s Office.

“Lopez had other health conditions including pneumonia, an infection of his urinary tract, an infection of fluid between the diaphragm, liver and spleen, and soft tissue injuries,” the DA’s Office stated.