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Durham leaders will rely on SBI report after teen's police custody death

Posted November 25, 2013

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— Durham City Manager Tom Bonfield said Monday that the city and police department are reviewing training policies after a 17-year-old boy died last week while in police custody.

But Bonfield said it's still too early to comment on what should change, if anything, until the city receives the results of an outside review by the State Bureau of Investigation.

"Until I get more information, I think it would not be fair for me to make a judgment," he said.

Bonfield added that he plans to make the results of the SBI review public, although it's unclear when the investigation will be complete.

"As soon as we know something, we're going to communicate it, whatever it is – good or bad, favorable or unfavorable," he said. "Unless we’re directed by some judicial action or some other laws that prevents that from occurring, I’m committed to that. I believe the mayor and City Council are also."

Bonfield's comments come on the heels of a protest Friday night in downtown Durham after Jesus Huerta, whose funeral was Monday, died in the back of a police cruiser on the morning of Nov. 19.

He was picked up on an outstanding second-degree trespassing charge from July after family members in a 911 call reported concerns for his safety.

State and local authorities won't comment on how the teen died, saying only that they are awaiting the results of an autopsy and that it did not appear to be the result of an officer-involved shooting.

Recordings of radio traffic between an officer and police dispatch, however, indicate shots were fired and that there was a gunshot wound.

It's the frustration from a lack of answers that prompted people to take to Durham's streets Friday during which they called for a new police chief and some got arrested and others broke windows and damaged police cruisers.

Huerta's death is the third since July involving a Durham police officer.

Jose Adan Cruz Ocampo, 33, was fatally shot July 27 during a standoff with police, and Derek Deandre Walker, 26, was killed in September when he pointed a gun at officers after an hourlong standoff in downtown Durham.

Those cases are also under investigation by the SBI.

"I have yet to see anything that tells me something needs to change," Bonfield said. "It doesn’t mean that when presented with facts that might not be the case, but I don’t want to go into this with preconceived notions about anything."


This story is closed for comments.

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  • thepeopleschamp Nov 26, 2013

    @gingerlynn, well put. Lol.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Nov 26, 2013

    less_govt_is_better_government, maybe you should change your name to less_reading_is_better_reading. ;-)

    So, I'm curious. If you were head of the police dept, what information would you release and when?

    Would you just allow all of the news crews to walk all over the scene and film what they want? Or, might you restrict access/information in some way?

    Would you speculate about what you think happened maybe later that day?...even while the forensic experts were still obtaining & reviewing evidence and trying to figure out what *actually* happened? How about a week later?

    When would YOU, as police chief, start talking to the world about what actually happened when no one was sure about what actually happened?

  • gingerlynn Nov 26, 2013

    Except this happened in Durham City and County under police chief Jose Lopez and Sheriff Mike Andrews and DA Leon Stanback.

    You might want to READ the article before posting.

  • less_govt_is_better_govt Nov 26, 2013

    Nothing to see here citizens, just trust the word of the almighty wake county da! Colon will not release the report and make it public because there is not a law requiring him to do so, therefore he can refuse to do so. You would be better off tap dancing on a bed of rattlesnakes and hoping not to get bit than you would believe the tripe that spews from his mouth. Nothing to see citizens you are not worthy to know why the almighty wake county district attorney made his decision, he can do whatever he wants. He has a full time job covering for Donnie Harrison's dept of county incapable law enforcement officers.