24 Oct DA’s Office Says Richmond Police Not Responsible for 2020 In-Custody Death
(Image courtesy of Contra Costa County)
By Tony Hicks
Bay City News Foundation
The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office won’t press charges against Richmond police for the in-custody death of Jose Luis Lopez on March 19, 2020, concluding in a report that officers committed no crimes while arresting Lopez two days earlier.
On March 17, 2020, Richmond officers responded to a domestic violence case involving Lopez and a woman in a relationship with him.
The report said police were told Lopez was on drugs and in a physical altercation with the victim. Police arrived to find the woman
partially naked and wrapped in a blanket and Lopez walking into another room in an agitated state.
Police said Lopez resisted arrest and grabbed an officer’s firearm. When other officers intervened, the report says Lopez bit one
officer’s hand and the stomach of another while pushing others.
A statement from the District Attorney’s Office on Friday said it took 11 officers to physically detain Lopez and that a Taser stun gun, baton strikes, and physical fighting were “often ineffective in the struggle. However, once officers succeeded in detaining him, he remained in an agitated state — often speaking, yelling, or making incoherent noises.”
Prosecutors said that emergency personnel used a “wrap restraint” on the man and gave him a sedative, which the district attorney’s statement said “appeared to have worked. Once in an ambulance, Lopez went into cardiac medical distress. Life-saving measures were taken by paramedics while enroute to a hospital and medical staff were able to stabilize him after he arrived
at the emergency room.”
Lopez’s condition deteriorated and he died around 10:45 a.m. March 19.
The county coroner’s office did an autopsy on Lopez the next day. The forensic pathologist determined the cause of death to be complications from cocaine toxicity. Lopez reportedly had other health conditions, including pneumonia, a urinary tract infection, an infection of fluid between the diaphragm, liver and spleen, and soft tissue injuries.
“In a legal analysis of the case, the district attorney’s office applied the applicable laws and the California District Attorney’s Uniform Crime Charging Standards to review the evidence of the incident,” the statement said. “The concluding opinion determined no evidence of criminal offense committed by Richmond Police Officers during when detaining Jose Luis
Lopez on March 17, 2020. As such, the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office will take no further action in this case.”
The victim and Lopez’s family were notified of the decision and a copy of the report was forwarded to the Attorney General of the State of California for review.