TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Three police officers with the Tucson Police Department allegedly involved in the death of a person in custody have resigned. Sources close to the department’s investigation into the matter said the ex-officers handed in their resignations last week.
Tucson officials hosted a news conference Wednesday, June 24, to discuss what happened.
The person died in April after the Tucson Police Department responded to a disturbance call. Sgt. Pete Dugan, a spokesperson for TPD, said the department is investigating the April incident.
In a press release, the department stated it would have fired all three of the responding officers had they not resigned.
The county medical examiner said the victim died of sudden cardiac arrest, according to the release, with acute cocaine intoxication and an enlarged heart. The person had been put in handcuffs but no strikes, chokeholds, blows, chemicals or weapons were used to subdue the individuals.
Officials said they did not release any information about the death earlier because of the investigation and “to accommodate the family of the decedent.”
Tucson Mayor Regina Romero said she watched a video of the in-custody death and was “anguished and deeply troubled by what I saw (Monday).”
Romero said the city will not release the name of the person or the video/details of the incident, per the family’s request.
“My heart goes out to the family and friends of the victim during this extraordinarily difficult time. I want to assure our community that there will be a thorough and transparent investigation,” Romero said in a release. “I will be proposing that Mayor & Council act swiftly to adopt reforms and effective policy changes with input from our community. We can and must do better.”
A city council meeting set for Tuesday was postponed after a councilwoman claimed the community member died “at the hands of Tucson police officers.”
Lane Santa Cruz called the death a tragedy in a Facebook post.
The Tucson City Council had a study session planned for 12:30 p.m. and a regular meeting at 5:30 p.m. They will now next meet on June 30.
The family of the person who died is expected to see the video on Wednesday.
“Out of sensitivity to the family involved, I agree with the council decision to postpone our meeting until TPD leadership has had an opportunity to meet with them privately and review the case,” council member Steve Kozachik said in a release to KOLD News 13. “Inflaming the situation prior to all of the facts being made public, especially given the national conversation related to police activity, is a disservice to everybody involved in this case.
In her Facebook post, Santa Cruz also mentioned a controversial ordinance, passed by the council April 21, that sought to keep people from entering a crime scene without permission or interfering with a police officer.
Ordinance 11746 made national news when several people incorrectly tweeted out that is prevented people from videoing police officers.
Mayor Regina Romero and others clarified the ordinance and the council was supposed to talk about it during its meetings.
Santa Cruz said she plans to work to repeal the ordinance during the next meeting, which is set for June 30.
Santa Cruz’s full statement can be seen below.
The Tucson Police Officer’s Association released this statement regarding the incident:
The Tucson Police Officers Association wants you to know the truth about the in-custody death that occurred in April of this year. Unfortunately, Council Member Santa Cruz chose to issue a false statement about the incident. She is playing fast and loose with the facts, and she knows it. There was, in fact, no “horrible incident of police violence.” There was no force used in the incident. Read that again: there was no use of force in this incident. The video of the incident, which will be released by the Chief of Police tomorrow, will demonstrate that.
This incident had a truly tragic outcome, but to imply that the officers involved are responsible for the death of the individual involved is inappropriate and reckless.
We encourage dialogue and debate. We are asking for, imploring, for our community to remain calm during this time to allow the facts of this case to come to light.