Local News

Durham chief says police actions at vigil to be reviewed

Posted December 22, 2013

Jesus Huerta (Photo courtesy of the Huerta family)

— Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez took to Facebook Sunday evening to respond to concerns about a lack of answers following a decision last week by officers to use tear gas and riot gear to break up what started as a vigil to remember a teen who died last in police custody.

"Please understand that our decision was not entered into lightly and distressing the communities of Durham was not our intent," Lopez said in the statement regarding the Dec. 19 event, which started as a peaceful event of about 200 friends, family and supporters of Jesus Huerta, 17.

Police say Huerta shot himself in the head early on Nov. 19 after he had been searched, handcuffed and placed in the back of a police car.

Since the shooting, his friends and family members have demanded answers about how Huerta could have killed himself and have also called for a federal investigation into the Durham Police Department about possible "patterns and practices" of civil rights violations within the department.

Thursday night's vigil at downtown Durham's CCB Plaza began candlelight, signs and flowers but gradually got louder when some participants began shouting obscenities to the beat of a drum as they marched to police headquarters, where they were told to disperse.

Lopez said Friday that the group reversed course back to CCB Plaza and that some agitators in the crowd then started committing acts of vandalism and hurling rocks and bottles at police.

In his Facebook statement Sunday, Lopez said Thursday night's police actions will be reviewed and that the police department "will be transparent in communicating the findings."

"A review of this incident will include, but is not limited to, assessing the tactics used, intelligence gathered, videos, literature collected, feedback and deployment decisions before, during and after this event," Lopez said.

He went on to say: "Although we hope that such an incident does not repeat itself, we will learn from this incident and work to improve our practices wherever possible."

Lopez said Dec. 11 that Officer Samuel Duncan picked up Huerta early on Nov. 19 in response to a call about a runaway and learned that he had a warrant out for his arrest on a second-degree trespassing charge.

By 2 a.m., according to police, Huerta was dead – his hands still cuffed behind him, slumped over in the back seat of the car outside the Durham Police Department – and a handgun was found in the floorboard of the patrol car. An autopsy confirmed the self-inflicted gunshot wound.

An internal police investigation and an investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation remain active, Lopez said.


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  • tatermommy52 Dec 26, 2013

    There were anarchists at the Carrboro Anarchists Book Fair talking about the Chapel Hill PD attacking protestors at an abandoned building, how the Durham PD has murdered three citizens recently and how they are working to embolden the Moral Monday protesters in NC and other southern states.

  • tatermommy52 Dec 26, 2013

    There are professional anarchists in this group and the Moral Monday group who are using current events to further their adgenda.

  • Brian Jenkins Dec 24, 2013

    I completely agree. It keeps being said that the pd is "hiding stuff, "not giving us answers". Thing is the only answer they will accept isnt the truth. So as long as they are not told what they want to hear than it will always appear that the pd is "hiding stuff" in their eyes. Why not talk to the pd or let your lawyer do it.
    Click to view my profileGETOUT
    December 23, 2013 9:27 a.m.
    [abuse] Report abuse

    LOL poor guy. Show us this evidence thats not "hiding". You should take your own advice. Seriously. And my family is full of cops.

  • rachel Dec 23, 2013

    you know, if these people whine enough and you keep second guessing your police actions and reviewing-the taxpayers will have spent a lot of money so the police force can chase its tail rather than getting anything done. After a while, catering to noise is pointless-everyone needs to move on.

  • GETOUT Dec 23, 2013

    Its not impossible for this kid to have done this to himself. He doesnt have to be any kind of magician either...


    Also what reason would a police officer have to kill this kid?? What would be the point? Who benefits?? There is no "bonus" in your check for that... Why is no one asking why this 17 year old kid felt the need to have a gun?? And even more so what was so bad about his home life that made him decide to do this to himself?? Everyone is questioning what the police did, but those two questions have yet to be answered by the family or any anti-police commentator in any story pertaining to this incident...

  • h3ardita11b4 Dec 23, 2013

    "Police say Huerta shot himself in the head early on Nov. 19 after he had been searched, handcuffed and placed in the back of a police car."

    I don't even know where to begin with the folks who seriously believe that this teen shot himself in the head. They arrested Jesus Huerta NOT Harry Houdini. The kid was busted on trespassing charges. He would've gotten little or no punishment. Who are you kidding when you say it is likely that he would do a Houdini to off himself that way? To try to escape, maybe. Kill himself? Very unlikey. THEN the gun just "happened" to be there. Y'all need prayer!

  • Genie v2.0 Dec 23, 2013


    He had been arrested previously, and his sister told cops that he left due to argument between him and mom because he was HIGH. He had been arrested earlier this year for possession of burglary tools and resisting arrest. I think it is safe to say with his track record at his age that if you don't want to consider any of those things criminal, he would have been soon enough.

  • SilverWolf Dec 23, 2013


    Trust me, I won't be waiting on cops to help me. I'll help myself and live to tell about it. This idea that cops are here to protect me is a bigger lie than Obama's cheaper insurance rates he guaranteed everyone. Stop acting like cops are your savior...they aren't. They are men and women like everyone else. No super powers, no batman utility belts. Trust them if you wish...I choose not to and I will live quite well. You, on the other hand, you'll likely die waiting on the cops you so trust to show up in time.

  • iknowjack Dec 23, 2013

    How was he a criminal, "concerned" mom? What crime had he been convicted of? His own mother called the police when he left the house because she didn't want him wandering the streets so late at night. He was being taken to the station on an outstanding misdemeanor trespassing charge. So just how was he a criminal?

  • torchhappysean Dec 23, 2013

    I am still curious how this kid managed to be handcuffed and put into a patrol car while in possession of a handgun?? He should have been searched a MINIMUM of at least two, if not more, times. Really sloppy work on the police's side.. As for the "peaceful gathering" what did you think was going to happen after the last gathering where the windows of the police station got busted out!!! "Also, these cops you trust so little are going to be the first people you call when something is happening to you, your family or property right?"....Genie v2.0
    .... I respect the law and the people that do this job but I am NOT going to depend on them to be my first line of defense when it comes to me or my family...I am that first line....