Bell focuses on poverty, avoids Huerta in Durham state of city address
Posted February 3, 2014
Durham, N.C. — Durham Mayor Bill Bell’s State of the City address Monday night focused on tackling poverty in the Bull City, which he said goes hand-in-hand with reducing crime, and building trust between government and communities.
But that trust has been compromised recently with clashes between residents and police over the death of Jesus Huerta, none of which were highlighted in his speech.
“It is still under investigation, and I don’t want to do anything to prejudice that investigation, but Durham is a lot bigger than that,” Bell said regarding why he didn't mention the case during his address. “It’s a lot bigger than that. I’m not demeaning what has happened in that respect. I certainly feel for the loss of the young man and his family.”
Jesus "Chuy" Huerta, 17, died Nov. 19 shortly after police picked him up on an outstanding trespassing charge. Authorities said he shot himself in the face while sitting in the back of a patrol car with his hands cuffed behind his back.
Huerta's family has repeatedly questioned the official explanation of the teen's death, calling for a federal investigation of potential civil rights violations by the Durham Police Department.
The State Bureau of Investigation looked into Huerta's death and turned over its findings to the Durham County District Attorney’s Office, which determined there was no probable cause to pursue criminal charges.
Recent protests over the case have led to arrests and damage to police vehicles. The Huerta family has said vigils will be held every month until "justice is served."
Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez, who did not take questions after Bell's address, echoed the mayor's focus on poverty.
“We need to address the issue of poverty, which is one of the root causes of a lot of the negative things that happen in the City of Durham,” he said. “And I think if we follow his lead and we go down that road, I think where we’re going to go is to a better place here in the City of Durham. Thank you.”