Criminal Justice

Did Durham police chief say criminal defense lawyer deserved to be shot? City probes allegation

The city of Durham, N.C., is probing allegations that Police Chief Jose Lopez said a lawyer injured in a shooting deserved to be shot because he is a public defender.

The lawyer, David Hall, was an innocent bystander injured in a shooting on June 22, WNCN reports. A story by the Durham Herald-Sun does not identify Hall by name, but says the shooting victim is a private lawyer who sometimes represents indigent defendants by court appointment.

The allegations against Lopez arose in a racial-bias complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by Durham assistant police chief Winslow Forbes. Lopez allegedly made the comments to subordinates as he prepared for a news conference about a series of shootings, the Herald-Sun says. According to Forbes’ complaint, Lopez said he intended to say all the shooting victims were black and involved in criminal activity. When an officer pointed out that the lawyer was not involved in any crime, Lopez allegedly responded that he deserved to get shot because he was a public defender.

Public defenders for Durham, Orange and Chatham counties wrote a letter asking for an investigation, but it was already well under way, City Manager Tom Bonfield told the Sun-Herald.

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