Local News

Durham mayor, police say violent protests over teen's death need to end

Posted February 5, 2014

Jesus Huerta (Photo courtesy of the Huerta family)

— Mayor Bill Bell and a deputy police chief said in an online video this week that protest marches over the death of a teen in Durham police custody must become peaceful.

Jesus "Chuy" Huerta, 17, died shortly after his Nov. 19 arrest on a trespassing charge. Authorities have said he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the face while he was in the back of a patrol car with his hands cuffed behind his back.

Huerta's family has questioned the Durham Police Department's explanation of his death, and three marches have led to vandalism, violence and arrests.

In a special edition of the city's "City Life" video series that officials posted on YouTube Monday, Bell and Deputy Police Chief Larry Smith defended how police have handled the protests.

"We can sit back and Monday-morning quarterback about what should have happened, but the fact of the matter is that the people were not conducting themselves in a proper fashion," Bell said in the 16-minute video.

Following a November protest, Smith said, police were determined not to tolerate vandalism or having officers assaulted in subsequent marches. But police "were stonewalled at every turn" when they reached out to the Huerta family and protest organizers, he said.

A Dec. 19 protest then ended when police in riot gear used tear gas to disperse a hostile crowd on CCB Plaza downtown.

Bell and Smith said they are pleased that the Huerta family has since distanced themselves from the violent protests – the teen's relatives held a peaceful vigil on Jan. 19 as protesters smashed windows and spray-painted police cars and a substation – but they said protest organizers need to end the vandalism.

"It's either time for the protesters to indeed be peaceful or to stop," Smith said.

Bell called Durham "an activist community" that is used to vocal protests, but he said protesters cannot engage in "unacceptable behavior." The City Council will likely issue public guidelines for protests in the near future, he said.

"If they're not willing to accept guidelines, they're going to accept the results," Bell said of protesters, adding that their message is getting lost amid the violence.


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  • frosty Feb 6, 2014

    It would be interesting if the LEOs checked everyone's ID and legal status at the protests.
    Sounds like Durham is working it's way into a Detroit.

  • Jump1 Feb 6, 2014

    The kid had a chance to shot at the officer but did not, and 75TAR your right.

  • 75Tarheel Feb 6, 2014

    I'm glad to see the most of contributors here are reasonable. For those who've forgotten the facts: The kids shot himself. It's called suicide. BTW, it was a stolen gun. The kid was a criminal. He find the end of his rope and ended his life. The Officer missed a gun that could have killed him. I'm sure he won't make that mistake again for the rest of his career.

    The family should be trying to help other troubled kids and build some legacy for their child. If they can help just one kid and save his life that's a lifetime of work.

  • Lightfoot3 Feb 6, 2014

    "What doe it matter if he missed it" - justaconservativeguy

    If he missed it, then his search methods/training is poor. Next time someone might shoot him, or an innocent person at the police station. We need to know so we can determine if more/better training is needed.

    "or did not search" - justaconservativeguy

    Well, if he didn't search, then he's lying when he says he did. That means his testimony is suspect in all cases. Might even mean he's covering something up.

    "Ah no they didn't." - 68_dodge_polara

    Please, they wouldn't even admit a gunshot at first! It was some "loud noise". Look at the Maryland mall shooting. We knew within 24hrs who done it, the type of gun, caliber, where it was bought, etc. The Durham police kept info suppressed for a couple of months. Seems they were in CYA mode.

  • rougemontredneck Feb 6, 2014

    I don't even understand WHAT they are protesting! Was it the cop that DIDN'T shoot the kid? Maybe they should be protesting burglary and illegal guns, b/c that seems to have more to do with him being able to shoot himself, than the police. What do they expect to accomplish by protesting?

  • justaconservativeguy Feb 6, 2014

    I STILL don't think we know all the details. The cop missed a FORTY FIVE caliber gun during a search? While possible, it's not likely (if he really did search as claimed).

    What doe it matter if he missed it or did not search, The cop did not pull the trigger, the kid did.

  • diana123 Feb 6, 2014

    if the kid didn't kill himself in the cop car he would have done it some place else.
    he's with the angels now.

  • Frank Downtown Feb 6, 2014

    He was a criminal with emotional issues. The family feels guilty now. The protesters don't even know the entire story.

  • bluecanary Feb 6, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Really? Why are the protesters continuing to start trouble with their violent, criminal behavior? Representative of the "culture" that this kid was part of. If they want their children to quit dying by violence, how about stop breaking windows and spray painting cop cars and go parent them?

  • lost in translation Feb 6, 2014

    I don't see why that can't continue to protest. Isn't this what Bill Bell preaches? Tolerance? Maybe he is becoming a little intolerant and fed up with people whom take advantage of a situation.