Durham police chief apologizes, doesn't recall remark - WNCN: News, Weather

Durham police chief apologizes, but says he doesn't recall remark

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DURHAM, N.C. -

Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez said Friday that he was sorry for any misunderstandings about a comment some say he made about a public defender who was accidentally shot.

He said he did not remember making the comment, but that he apologized if he offended anyone.

Lopez made his comments in front of police headquarters in Durham, surrounded by his fellow officers.

So far, a total of three attorneys have released statements condemning remarks Lopez is accused of making concerning a shooting victim.

"I do appreciate the patience of the city government here in looking into it," Lopez said.

In a formal statement sent to the media, Lopez said, "While I do not recall making the alleged comment, as the chief of the Durham Police Department, I take full responsibility for anything I may have said that may have offended anyone or any group of people. 

"I can assure you that any comment that may have been made among peers of this organization concerning the defense attorney was not made with malice, and I apologize if it offended anyone. It is regrettable when a statement is taken out of context and causes unintended harm."

Letters penned by James E. Williams Jr., Kenneth Rose, and Jennifer Harjo all reference a lack of respect from Lopez if the allegations of offensive remarks are true.

Williams said Lopez showed extreme callousness towards shooting victim David Hall.

Lopez was accused of saying Hall "deserved to get shot because he was a public defender."

Hall, a public defender in Durham, was injured as an innocent bystander in a shooting on June 22 on Gray Avenue. Another victim of the same shooting died two days later.

Harjo, president of the North Carolina Public Defender Association, echoed Williams' remarks by saying any lack of respect shown towards public defenders is unwarranted and shows ignorance to the duties of the occupation.

"Police officers have an obligation to protect all citizens, regardless of race,
occupation or other prejudice," Harjo said.

Rose said if the allegation is true, the "remark suggests disdain for criminal defense attorneys."

Assistant Police Chief Winslow Forbes filed a charge of discrimination against Lopez earlier in August accusing the chief of making racially discriminatory comments and actions.

One alleged remark made by Lopez centered around Hall.

Forbes claims Lopez said Hall "deserved to get shot because he was a public defender."

"He (Lopez) has shown great disrespect for the United States Constitution," Williams wrote.

Williams said public defenders "protect all citizens from potential police misconduct or prosecutorial authority."

Williams continues by saying the alleged remarks made by Lopez need to be investigated thoroughly.

Durham City Manager Tom Bonfield suggested that Lopez issue a public apology,and says the police chief has his full support.

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