Local News

17-year-old dies in Durham police custody

Posted November 19, 2013
Updated December 10, 2013

— State Bureau of Investigation agents are trying to determine how a 17-year-old died while in the custody of a Durham police officer early Tuesday.

Officer Samuel Duncan was transporting Jesus Huerta to police headquarters on West Chapel Hill Street shortly before 3 a.m. to pick up a warrant charging the teen with second-degree trespassing.

When the officer got to the parking lot, he heard a loud noise in the car and jumped from the vehicle, police said.

The patrol car rolled into a van and came to rest with Huerta in the back seat.

"Based on the preliminary investigation, it does not appear that any Durham police officer fired a weapon during this incident," Police Chief Jose Lopez told reporters in a statement Tuesday morning.

Lopez declined to take questions and did not say what investigators think the loud noise might have been.

"This is not right. He was (in) the custody of police," said Huerta's sister, Evelin Huerta.

She said Tuesday night that her family was on their way to the police department when they saw commotion around the police cruiser, but they never thought it had anything to do with her brother.

His death now has left her family distraught and wanting answers to many questions they have, including whether he was properly restrained and searched prior to being taken into custody.

"They say that it is not a gunshot wound from a police officer, but they're not telling us if he had a gun on him," Evelin Huerta said. "They're not telling us how in the world he was able to shoot himself. They're not telling us anything, and we need to know."

Jesus Huerta's body was sent to the North Carolina Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Raleigh for an autopsy.

Duncan, who joined the police department in July 2012, was put on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of the SBI review, which is standard procedure.

The police department’s professional standards division and homicide unit are also investigating the teen's death.

Jesus Huerta was a student at Riverside High School, where he was known by the nickname "Chuy."

"My heart just dropped," classmate Angel Hernandez said. "He liked to interact with people. He liked to have fun."

Huerta's case is the third death involving Durham police officers in recent months that the SBI is now reviewing.

Jose Adan Cruz Ocampo, 33, was fatally shot by Officer R.S. Mbuthia on July 27 after Mbuthia and other officers told him to drop a kitchen knife he had been holding. Witnesses later said Ocampo was trying to hand the knife to an officer when he was shot four times.

On Sept. 17, Derek Deandre Walker, 26, was fatally shot by Cpl. R.C. Swartz when Walker pointed a gun at officers after an hour-long standoff at CCB Plaza in downtown Durham. Walker was distraught over losing custody of his son, relatives said.

156 Comments

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  • ForTheLoveOfGodGrowUp Nov 20, 7:27 p.m.

    678develish: "The officers should be fired because someone lost their life because of his carelessness."

    A life was lost yes. Where did the carelessness begin? Perhaps with whoever put a gun in the Juveniles hands to begin with?

    I believe that a lot of people will learn from this however I do wish that you would stop Monday Morning Quarterbacking especially if you have never lived in the shoes of a LEO.

  • Poboy1963 Nov 20, 6:07 p.m.

    First of all, prayers go out to all involved. Next, it is great that several of you were in that backseat and can go ahead and give your testimony to the SBI on this investigation... well, from what you have said, I just assume.......

  • 678devilish Nov 20, 4:36 p.m.

    will be the ones who repeat their mistakes over andover.

    THE COPS. HOPEFULLY THEY ALL WILL LEARN FROM THIS.

  • 678devilish Nov 20, 3:51 p.m.

    Officer is to be blamed for not throughly checking this victim to see if he was cleared of any weapons, including loaded guns. The officers should be fired because someone lost their life because of his carelessness.

  • ncmedic201 Nov 20, 3:20 p.m.

    Correcto, you are correcto...learning from mistakes is imperative in this industry. For those who want to say that nothing was done improperly will be the ones who repeat their mistakes over andover.

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Nov 20, 2:28 p.m.

    Even a cursory examination of the man and the police cruiser should have turned up a civilian firearm if that's what the loud noise was. So what's the holdup of the authorities revealing whether one was found in the cruiser or not?

  • ecu4me2 Nov 20, 2:06 p.m.

    WRAL....what do the other cases have to do with this one....Really and that's my 2 cent....

  • Backpacker Nov 20, 12:15 p.m.

    “Well as minor as you say it is, think of the big picture.”

    We could all magnify any trivial incident into a seemingly catastrophic event but in reality second degree trespass IS an exceedingly minor offense.

  • sinenomine Nov 20, 12:10 p.m.

    leo, if the young man had a gun it would obviously be a much more serious matter. I never said otherwise. Furthermore I am not aware of a news report which says that he in fact had a gun.

    It's easy enough to set up a straw man and then knock him down. Please have the courtesy to confine your comments to what I actually said and not what you would like me to have said.

  • Backpacker Nov 20, 12:10 p.m.

    “ncmedic I'm willing to bet you make mistakes that can be avoided too, unless you're perfect of course.“

    leo-nc – Perhaps you are taking ncmedic’s comment out of context. Just let me say that during my time as a fire fighter it was common practice to have a critique after major incidents so that we might improve our performance for the next incident but I guarantee that those with thin skins will be the least likely to learn from mistakes.

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