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Family protests Durham Police Department's actions

Posted November 22, 2013
Updated November 23, 2013

— Days after a Durham teen died while in police custody, his family led a protest Friday night through the streets, carrying signs that said "Durham needs a new police chief."

The sister of Jesus Huerta, 17, who died in the back of a police cruiser Tuesday morning, was among the organizers of Friday's march. 

"The silence from Police Chief Lopez was an insult," organizers wrote on the Facebook page marking the event.

According to Durham police, some of those demonstrating late Friday broke windows at the station's headquarters in downtown Durham. No injuries were reported.

Alexander McCrimmon, 19, of Durham, was arrested and charged with failure to disperse on command, holding a meeting/demonstration while wearing a mask or hood and causing a public disturbance. He was released from the Durham County jail after posting a $1,500 bond. 

A 14-year-old was also charged with injury to property. His name was not released, and he was released into the custody of his parents, police said.  

Police have not said how Huerta died, but his family members say investigators told them he had a gunshot to the head.

On Friday, Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez issued a statement without saying much, fanning the aggravation the family feels, Evelin Huerta said. 

Officer Samuel Duncan was transporting Huerta, to police headquarters on West Chapel Hill Street. In radio communication, Duncan described heading "shots fired." He jumped from the moving car, and the patrol car rolled into a van and came to rest with Huerta in the back seat.

Lopez said the investigation of Huerta's death, led by the State Bureau of Investigation, precludes him from releasing more details. Duncan has been placed on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of the SBI review, which is standard procedure.

"I certainly understand the community’s concerns about the lack of available information," he said in the statement. "We realize that during the investigation process, transparency is indeed essential to maintaining your trust. However, I also am obligated not to compromise the investigation by speaking prematurely before the investigation is complete."

Evelin Huerta said Lopez' statement doesn't answer their questions.

"At this point in time, the words he is using to try to make us feel better doesn’t really matter," she said. "All we need is clarity."

Huerta’s mother, Sylvia Fernandez, said her son ran away from the family apartment on Washington Street, and she wanted police to help. Fernandez, who doesn’t speak English, asked her daughter to call police.

The police department’s Professional Standards Division and homicide unit are also investigating the teen's death.

"To be thorough and complete, SBI investigations can take months, and once completed, the findings are turned over to the Durham County District Attorney’s Office. Once the DA’s office determines whether or not to file charges, only then is the Police Department informed of the findings," Lopez said in the statement.

"Like you, I eagerly await the full review of these investigations," he said. "As we wait, please know that thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims, as well as the officers involved and their families. I appreciate your patience, and can assure you that once these investigations are completed, I will make a full disclosure to the public about each case."

In an interview with WRAL News on Friday, Lopez said he's satisfied with the actions of his officers so far, but if the investigation yields specific problems, he will address them.

Lopez said he hasn't spoken to Huerta's family.

"In all honesty, I'm very limited to what I can say," he said. "What I would like to do is embrace that mother, but it would be improper for me to do so considering that this is an investigation and it's outside of my hands."

48 Comments

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  • readyforgodswilltobedone Nov 25, 12:40 p.m.

    This doesn't sound right. Why were they just parked in the parking lot and why did the car roll away? How can you shoot yourself if you have handcuffs on????

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Nov 25, 9:59 a.m.

    If the cop didn't properly frisk this child before putting him in the police car, that's a problem for the police. That said, if the boy killed himself with his own gun...that would have happened at some later date.

    IMO, the family doesn't want to admit that their child could have had severe problems and ended his own life. Who does?

    And, this family should be asking themselves why their 17 had a gun.

    But, this family certainly shouldn't be making a spectacle like this when there's a good chance that their boy did all of this to himself.

  • less_govt_is_better_govt Nov 25, 8:12 a.m.

    Nothing to see here folks, the SBI will make sure all officers "have their stories straight" and no officers will be found accountable. In the eastern part of NC they make sure the investigation will say so, it helps the state avoid liability which is paid by the citizens. Get a job as law enforcement and you are never in the wrong

  • GETOUT Nov 22, 6:40 p.m.

    Letsbreal, I'm assuming you are saying you would be immediately fired. Hmmmmm........ If you knew anything about law enforcement or police procedure, every officer involved in a deadly force situation or IN CUSTODY death situation is placed on administrative leave until he state conducts an independent investigations which is the case here. I'm sorry if your job fires on the spot, but I tell you what if you want a different career and better understanding of police procedure, you are more than welcome to attend the open house and apply or apply at any other agency you choose....

  • COPs eye Nov 22, 6:08 p.m.

    As I have said before, if only the officer had taken the time to make sure this victim did not have no weapons, including a loaded gun on him, then this tragedy most likely would not have happen. 678devilish

    you are correct...until the next time he tried to kill himself

  • COPs eye Nov 22, 6:06 p.m.

    Evelin Huerta told the dispatcher they were worried because the teen was using drugs and once tried to take his own life.

    This about sums up most of the questions....

  • 68_dodge_polara Nov 22, 5:45 p.m.

    "unbiased SBI group." - sandim50 November 22, 2013 3:36 p.m.

    "HA! HA! Good one!"

    Yes unbiased. Have evidence other wise?

  • Mr. Hans Nov 22, 5:37 p.m.

    "unbiased SBI group." - sandim50
    November 22, 2013 3:36 p.m.

    HA! HA! Good one!

  • btneast Nov 22, 5:37 p.m.

    ....if I make an error that costs another persons life, I won't be put on administrative leave....

    You would be UNTIL they determined FOR SURE that you indeed did make an error. The officer may have made an error, but that has yet to be determined. On TV, investigations move much faster......not so much in real life.

  • oleguy Nov 22, 4:39 p.m.

    3 Days have passed and the story is still not out,,This is the 20th Century actuall to some the 21St. Something very fishey on this one

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