Family remains bitter year after Durham teen's death in police custody
Posted November 19, 2014
Durham, N.C. — On the anniversary of a Durham teen's death in police custody, his sister said Wednesday that the family continues to seek answers and blames the Durham Police Department for his death.
"If they would have done their job right, no matter what the circumstances were, he would still be alive," Evelin Huerta said in a statement released by the family's attorney.
Jesus Huerta was picked up in the early hours of Nov. 19, 2013, on an outstanding misdemeanor trespassing warrant. As the 17-year-old was being taken to police headquarters, he shot himself in the head while sitting in the back of a patrol car with his hands cuffed behind his back, police have said.
Investigations by the State Bureau of Investigation and the Durham Police Department determined that Officer Samuel Duncan failed to properly search Huerta before placing him in the patrol car, so he missed a .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun in the teen's possession. Duncan was suspended without pay for 40 hours for violating policies regarding transporting prisoners.
"To this day, we still grieve his death like it was yesterday," Evelin Huerta said. "As a family, we still don't accept the way our loved one left our side.
"The only one that could tell us what really happened is no longer with us," she continued. "Blame the dead for since they can no longer speak or defend themselves."
Jesus Huerta's death sparked a series of protests, some of which turned violent, as his family and others demanded more information about what happened the night he died.
The Durham Police Department has since started providing the city manager a report about any officer-involved shooting within five business days.
The case also led to all Durham police officers being required to complete a two-hour update course on conducting searches, and in-car video cameras now activate 30 seconds after an officer starts the engine of a patrol car.
Duncan’s interaction with Huerta was not recorded because the in-car cameras turn off when a patrol car is idle for more than 50 minutes, and Duncan failed to turn his car's camera back on.
The Huerta family said they plan to remember the teen privately on Wednesday.
They have asked Durham officials to approve a permanent memorial to Jesus Huerta at Durham Police Department headquarters. City Council members are expected to address the memorials policy at a Thursday work session.