Mother sues over Nogales, Ariz., police killing her truck-driving son
May 27, 2022
A mother is suing Arizona law enforcement officers for killing her son, a long-haul truck driver, in an intense shootout in May 2021.
Glen Ray Cockrum Jr., 39, of Volusia County, Fla., was shot to death on the afternoon of May 24, 2021, on Grand Avenue in Nogales.
The civil lawsuit is being brought by Tucson, Ariz., attorney Paul Gattone on behalf of Cockrum’s mother, Cora J. Waller of Shirley, Ark.
“Within a span of approximately 90 seconds, nine officers unleashed 122 bullets on the driver as he slowly maneuvered his empty semitruck through a busy Walmart parking lot and onto Nogales’ main thoroughfare,” according to the civil lawsuit filed May 23, 2022.
The lawsuit names the city of Nogales, Nogales Police Chief Roy Bermudez and Nogales Police officers Sgt. Nicolas Acevedo, Sgt. Robert Gallego, Cpl. Gerardo Batriz, Jose Pimienta, Jesus Gomez , Guadalupe Villa and Mario Lopez. Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office Detective Joseph Bunting also is named.
All officers who fired their weapons during the May 24 event were absolved by County Attorney George Silva in October, reported NogalesInternational.com. He said the officers were justified in using lethal force.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety investigated the incident. There were three different shooting scenes: a Border Patrol checkpoint on Interstate 19, the Walmart parking lot in Nogales, and the place on Grand Avenue where officers fired at least 102 rounds, one of which pierced Cockrum’s left chest and killed him.
NogalesInternational.com has published a YouTube video montage of cellphone footage of the events at the produce shipper’s warehouse, during the slow chase on I-19 and Grand Avenue and of the final shootout.
The attorney representing the dead man’s estate and mother noted that Cockrum was suspected at most of only misdemeanor trespass when the police chase began that ended in a fusillade of bullets shot at his truck.
The day’s events
Most of this account comes from the civil lawsuit brought by the dead man’s mother.
Early May 24, Cockrum was driving a truck owned and operated by Bettendorf, Iowa-based A&B Logistics, according to the lawsuit. He delivered cargo to a Phoenix warehouse and was told to pick up a load of produce in Rio Rico, Ariz., which is near Nogales.
When he arrived in Rio Rico, he went to the wrong place, which was a couple of miles from the correct stop and parked. A warehouse employee went up to Cockrum’s truck and asked him to move. The employee said Cockrum stayed in his cab but showed a knife. Just before noon, the employee texted a family member who was a 911 dispatcher for advice on what to do.
Before a Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office deputy arrived, Cockrum had moved his truck to a neighboring warehouse. The deputy walked up to Cockrum’s truck. Cockrum stayed in his truck but reportedly again displayed a knife.
Another deputy arrived on the scene and so did two Customs and Border Patrol agents. After the Sheriff’s Office deputies brandished their guns, Cockrum put his truck in gear and slowly drove away, avoiding the parked law enforcement vehicles and officers. He slowly got onto I-19 going north. Sheriff’s deputies trailed him.
A U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint was in Cockrum’s path of travel on I-19. When he came upon it, Cockrum crossed over the median between the northbound and southbound lanes, apparently to avoid the checkpoint. A sheriff’s deputy shot at the wheels of Cockrum’s truck trying to stop it. Nogales Police officers joined the chase at this point.
Cockrum took the first Nogales exit onto Grand Avenue, where he ran two red lights at about 35 mph but came to a stop at a third red light. Then he turned into a Walmart parking lot. He came to a full stop there and stayed in his cab. Nogales Police Department officers decided to deploy a nonlethal flash bang grenade. They were able to break through a window of the truck but did not activate the flash bang grenade.
Then shooting began. Six officers fired shots in the Walmart parking lot. To escape, Cockrum nudged two police SUVs out of the way.
The lawsuit notes that no civilians were in the path of the truck and there was no immediate threat.
The Sheriff’s Office detective was the first to fire shots at Cockrum’s truck on Grand Avenue. As he stopped shooting, the Nogales Police officers started.
Department prone to ‘excessive force’
In the lawsuit, the attorney notes that the International Association of Chiefs recommends that officers should not shoot into moving vehicles “unless a person in the vehicle is immediately threatening the officer or another person … by means other than the vehicle.” Similar advice is quoted from the Police Executive Research Forum.
It also notes that the New York Police Department has banned the practice since 1972 and since then most of the nation’s largest police departments have followed suit.
The lawsuit says the Nogales Police Department has maintained a long-standing custom of needlessly escalating interactions with citizens who were nonviolent and posed no imminent threat to the public.
“The Nogales Police Department appears to have developed a habit of reflexively relying on excessive force when confronted with such nonviolent situations,” according to the lawsuit.
A copy of the lawsuit is available. LL