After an often torturous tenure at the helm of the Durham Police Department—including, most recently, last week's controversial Tasering of an unarmed black man at a Durham Harris Teeter
—Chief Jose Lopez Sr. is out.
Durham City manager Thomas Bonfield announced Tuesday morning that he had reached a separation agreement with Lopez, which would result in his retirement effective Dec. 31.
"After careful consideration, I have determined that a change in leadership is necessary at this time for the City of Durham and the Durham Police Department to continue to meet the law enforcement expectations and needs of the community," Bonfield said in a statement. "... I appreciate Chief Lopez’s eight years of service to the city during some very challenging times for the Durham Police Department and for law enforcement across the country."
Lopez's time has been marked by prolonged racial unrest over law enforcement nationwide and in Durham. His office has also been plagued by allegations of racial profiling. Nevertheless, Lopez repeatedly denied any profiling in conversations with the Indy.
Lopez's department was also rocked by the 2013 shooting death of 17-year-old Jesus Huerta
, who allegedly shot himself while handcuffed in the back of a police car. Huerta's death prompted numerous protests, with some protesters clashing violently with Durham police.
His retirement also comes soon after last week's bizarre incident in a Harris Teeter off 9th Street, in which a 24-year-old was Tased and arrested for second-degree trespassing and resisting an officer in front of dozens of witnesses on a Wednesday afternoon. It's unclear what the man did to deserve being forced from the grocery store, but the Indy is covering the issue in tomorrow's paper.
Bonfield said the city will be searching for Lopez's replacement in the coming weeks. Here is Chief Lopez's memo announcing his retirement to department staff.
More on this developing story as it comes.