Local News

Family remains bitter year after Durham teen's death in police custody

Posted November 19, 2014

Jesus Huerta (Photo courtesy of the Huerta family)

— 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.


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  • Karen Orndorff Nov 20, 2014
    user avatar

    The innocent child had a gun, are you kidding? Memorial??

  • ncprr1 Nov 20, 2014

    The officer might bear a small portion of the blame, but there is plenty of it left to spread around, including to the family.

  • busyb97 Nov 20, 2014

    Stopping trying to pass blame, There are alot of people ultimately responsible for the events, and the officer is at the bottom of that list.

  • Denise Martin Nov 20, 2014
    user avatar

    The last paragraph of this article is absolutely ridiculous. A memorial? Are you kidding. Well while they're at it why not put a memorial to Hitler.

  • Denise Martin Nov 20, 2014
    user avatar

    I suppose 15 minutes weren't enough for them to be famous.

    Seriously, get over it. Yeah, that's cold but being PC is not in my nature. It seems like these days everyone is so self centered and they think the world revolves around them. It's always someone elses fault. 99% of the time these "perfect" teen is the exact opposite.

  • Setnitst8 Nov 20, 2014

    View quoted thread

    I know, this PC world kills me. He was a bad apple. He had the gun! He could have said, "hey officer, you missed the gun I have and I don't want it to go off accidentally". Did he do that, nope. How about some personal responsibility these days, gosh... It's always got to be someone elses fault right.

  • 68_dodge_polara Nov 20, 2014

    The author of this article seems to have forgotten that this "child" was breaking in homes while armed. Anyone in the Durham area can count them selves as lucky that they didn't come home to find him in their house. A memorial? For what, a hero? Some people have entirely gone off the deep end in the pursuit of political correctness. If this family is still looking to blame someone they don't need to go any further than the closest mirror. Where were they when he was ransacking other people's homes, while armed?

  • Fx432 Nov 19, 2014

    Everyone else's fault but his own.

  • jackaroe123 Nov 19, 2014

    A family has every right to be bitter, suspicious, and distraught a year after their child officially shot himself despite having been frisked and having his hands cuffed behind his back. It doesn't mean they're right about what factually happened to their child, but their feelings are completely understandable to anyone w/ half a heart.

  • USMC Vet Nov 19, 2014

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