FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 21, 2022
Contact: Ted Asregadoo, Public Information Officer, 925-957-8638
DA Report: No Criminal Offense in Actions Taken by Richmond Police Officers in Detaining Jose Luis Lopez
Martinez, Calif. – Today, the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office released a report on the March 17, 2020, in-custody death of Jose Luis Lopez in Richmond.
The Law Enforcement Involved Fatal Incident (LEIFI) report summarized the investigative report in the incident involving Lopez and members of the Richmond Police Department. The report also contains a legal analysis of the actions of the peace officers during the incident and concludes with a charging decision.
Contra Costa County implemented a protocol in 1984 to investigate when police officers or civilians are shot or die during an encounter with law enforcement – and is followed by every law enforcement agency in the county.
Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton notes that the purpose of the report is to “provide information to the public in a transparent manner” as well as to independently determine if there is any criminal liability in fatal incidents when law enforcement is involved. If criminal liability does exist, the District Attorney – which represents The People of the State of California – has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that a death was not justified.
On March 17, 2020, Officers from the Richmond Police Department responded to call about a domestic violence incident involving Jose Luis Lopez and a female victim who was in a relationship with Lopez. Police were advised Lopez was high on drugs and was in a physical altercation with the victim.
When officers arrived, they observed the victim partially naked and wrapped in a blanket and Lopez walking into another room in an agitated state. When one officer attempted to apprehend him, Lopez started to tense up and resist being detained. A struggle ensued where, at one point, Lopez grabbed the officer’s firearm. Other officers intervened to stop Lopez from getting the firearm, but he still struggled against them -- biting the hand of one officer, the stomach of another, and pushing off others. It took approximately 11 officers to physically detain Lopez. A taser, baton strikes, and physical fights 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.
When emergency personnel arrived, Lopez was still struggling with police while they were applying a wrap restraint. Paramedics administered a sedative to calm Lopez – which 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. However, days later, Lopez’s condition deteriorated, and he died at 10:45 am on March 19th.
On March 20th, 2020, the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Coroner’s Office conducted an autopsy on Lopez. The forensic pathologist determined the cause of death to be complications from cocaine toxicity. 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.
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 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 family of Jose Lopez have been notified by the District Attorney’s Office. Also, a copy of the report has been forwarded to the Attorney General of the State of California for review. A PDF of the report can be viewed here.