Local News

Durham police, prosecutors review probe of teen's death

Posted January 3, 2014

Jesus Huerta (Photo courtesy of the Huerta family)

— Durham County prosecutors met Friday with police as they review the circumstances of the November death of a handcuffed teen in the back of a patrol car.

Police say 17-year-old Jesus Huerta shot himself in the head after he had been searched and his hands handcuffed behind his back following his Nov. 19 arrest on trespassing charges. Huerta's family and friends are not convinced by the police department's explanation of how Huerta died.

The State Bureau of Investigation completed its review of Huerta's death on Thursday and handed its report over to the Durham County District Attorney's Office. The full autopsy report isn't yet completed and is the only missing element to the SBI report, according to a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Department of Justice.

Assistant District Attorney Roger Echols said he didn't discuss the findings of the SBI report with police during the hour-meeting because it is an independent investigation. He said prosecutors are waiting on the autopsy report before deciding how to proceed in the case.

Mayor Bill Bell has demanded that the Durham Police Department release its own internal investigative report of the teen's death, and he says he expects that out by next week.

Huerta's death has prompted two protest marches, including one on Dec. 19 that ended with police in riot gear using tear gas to disperse a crowd of people on CCB Plaza downtown. Six people were arrested.

Police Chief Jose Lopez blamed agitators in the crowd for the confrontation, but he has said that he would review his officers' actions.

Huerta's friends and family members have called for a federal investigation into the police department about possible "patterns and practices" of civil rights violations within the department.

Bell received an email after the Dec. 19 protest from the special assistant to Martin Castro, chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. In the email, the assistant said Castro wants to discuss Huerta's death.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • RI Yankee Jan 3, 2014

    Junk999, it most be so difficult for you to be so perfect and mistake free throughout your life. Yes the officer may have failed to perform a proper search however the young man is the one who put himself in this position. If he was caring the weapon he was doing so against the law. Lets put fault where it belongs. The child should not have been carrying.

  • ncmedic201 Jan 3, 2014

    What they still have not disclosed is whether it was intentional or unintentional self-inflicted gsw and where the gun came from.

  • iknowjack Jan 3, 2014

    No bulletmom14, I didn't think of that at all. I have no idea why so many of the clueless assume this kid is a hardened criminal. I have no idea where he got a gun but to say he was trying to murder the cop from handcuffs is the epitome of ridiculousness.

  • bulletmom14 Jan 3, 2014

    The officer obviously failed to thoroughly search...and, we do not know why....However, my gut tells me this bullet was intended for that officer and not the victim.....thank goodness the officer, doing his job...and maybe giving this little dude a break by not thoroughly searching him, was spared.....anyone think about that?

  • BeastieBoy Jan 3, 2014

    I thought the cause of death was already established? It should read, "the cause of death was from a neglegent LEO failing to maintain for the safety of himself and the arrested party."

  • junk999 Jan 3, 2014

    "So I guess this young man has no responsibility of his own. If he shot himself it is on him not the officer. No officer made him pull the trigger."

    If you're cuffed in the back of police car it's the responsibility of the police to insure you aren't armed. Period. It sounds like the kid shot himself, but we don't know whether that was intentional or accidental. Regardless, it's difficult to imagine how this could happen if the cop did everything right.

  • bizarro Jan 3, 2014

    Paul Walker's autopsy was done in a day...why is this one taking so long?

  • disgusted2010 Jan 3, 2014

    disgusted2010, the statement by matrix is not libelous. As he stated, it is what he believes. He is not stating this as a matter of fact but only as what he believes.

    I do not believe that making statements that the person making them clearly do not know the veracity of and are clearly damaging to the reputation of the person about whom it is made is excused by qualifying it as a belief or opinion. I also do not believe that the person making this allegation would do so if she/he had to reveal their name.

  • Jump1 Jan 3, 2014

    the assistant said Castro wants to discuss Huerta's death. Then all he needs to do is call the Chief and make an appointment. The Mayor and the others are using this as a political game now.

  • RI Yankee Jan 3, 2014

    "DPD is solely responsible for his well being while in their custody"

    So I guess this young man has no responsibility of his own. If he shot himself it is on him not the officer. No officer made him pull the trigger.