Family protests Durham Police Department's actions
Posted November 22, 2013
Updated November 23, 2013
Durham, N.C. — 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."