Durham police, prosecutors review probe of teen's death
Posted January 3, 2014
DURHAM, N.C. — 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.