Local News

New evidence in Durham teen's death prompts meeting between authorities, family

Posted January 22
Updated January 23

Jesus Huerta (Photo courtesy of the Huerta family)

— State investigators plan to meet with Durham County prosecutors and the family of a teen who died in Durham police custody after the family provided new information in the case, officials said Wednesday.

Jesus "Chuy" Huerta, 17, died Nov. 19 shortly after police picked him up on an outstanding trespassing charge. Authorities said he shot himself in the face while sitting in the back of a patrol car with his hands cuffed behind his back.

Huerta's family has repeatedly questioned the official explanation of the teen's death, calling for a federal investigation of potential civil rights violations by the Durham Police Department.

The State Bureau of Investigation looked into Huerta's death and turned its findings over to Durham County District Attorney Leon Stanback, who said there was no probable cause to pursue any criminal charges in the case. The SBI report hasn't been released publicly.

Alex Charns, an attorney representing the family, said he turned over to the SBI information about an "additional investigative area that we identified."

Noelle Talley, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Justice, said that SBI officials have asked Stanback's office to set up a meeting between SBI agents, prosecutors and the Huerta family to discuss the new information.

Durham County Assistant District Attorney Roger Echols declined to discuss what information Charns provided to the SBI.

"I wouldn't necessarily characterize it as evidence, but there is information received that is under investigation," Echols said in a text message to WRAL News.

The Durham Police Department said an internal investigation determined Officer Samuel Duncan missed a .45-caliber handgun during a frisk of Huerta before putting him in the patrol car. Duncan remains on administrative duty pending the completion of the investigation.

Police Chief Jose Lopez said Thursday that no decision on any disciplinary action will be made until the internal investigation is complete.

"Our disclipline is progressive. You don’t get the maximum the first time you violate policy,” Lopez said. "This is administrative. This is not criminal in nature."

Huerta's death has prompted a series of protest marches in downtown Durham that have ended in vandalism and arrests.

20 Comments

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  • yellow_hat Jan 28, 11:27 a.m.

    So what does the family think happened, and is there any evidence to support their beliefs? I am not one who wants to give cops a free pass - but it seems like this is just a case where the cop did not search as thoroughly as he should have. I suspect because he assumed this kid was not a risk, and unfortunately Huerta shot himself, either on purpose or accidentally. I do not see any evidence to refute that.

  • lprop Jan 27, 11:20 a.m.

    People have been committing crimes for decades now. No race has a patent on crime. Crime is committed by all races. The end results are never good. It is sometime death and quite often locked away in jail away from the family. It will happen again.

  • LovemyPirates Jan 24, 6:26 p.m.

    How could he have shot himself in the face if his hands were handcuffed behind his back? Were they still behind his back after the shooting. Very sad and Durham Police should be counting their blessings the teen didn't want the LEO dead.

  • tatermommy52 Jan 24, 4:44 p.m.

    Why did the family allow him to have a gun knowing he had suicidal thoughts.

  • PDMARTIN Jan 24, 12:54 p.m.

    LONEWOLF: Regrettably, Huerta has already been deemed guilty by the majority of the posters on WRAL.com

    And your point is...........

  • GETOUT Jan 22, 7:55 p.m.

    This is nothing more than the SBI meeting with the family like they agreed to do from the beginning. I'm sure that since the family hasnt gotten what they think the truth is that the would come up with something else. And let us not forget that the SBI conducted their own independent investigation and the DA's decision was based on the states findings. So my question is why didnt the family provide this evidence to the SBI in the beginning? Why wait till now to produce this "new evidence"??? Make me wonder if its actually somethin new or something made up to keep this whole thing going? Something fishy going on with his family....

  • westernwake1 Jan 22, 7:17 p.m.

    I've seen re-creations of people shooting themselves while handcuffed. Hands behind the back... View More

    — Posted by akademicpro

    Note that they executed an individual today in Texas who shot a cop in 1994. This person was hand-cuffed in back of a police car but not adequately searched. He got a gun out of his pants and killed the police officer.

    There are numerous examples over the past two decades of individuals in hand-cuffs in the back seat of a patrol car pulling out a gun and firing shots - when they have not been adequately searched by the officer. Many of these cases end tragically.

  • akademicpro Jan 22, 6:46 p.m.

    I've seen re-creations of people shooting themselves while handcuffed. Hands behind the back but shooting in the FACE I'm not sure I've seen that one.

  • ecu4me2 Jan 22, 5:29 p.m.

    The ability to shoot himself has been proven...The search failed to find a fairly large gun...The kid wanted to kill himself and given the chance followed through...The officer bailed out when the shot was fired, suggest he was not involved.....These are the facts, just the facts .....right Friday?

  • Lone Voice in the Wilderness Jan 22, 5:26 p.m.

    Why would anyone with any concern for the truth complain about further investigation here? ... View More

    — Posted by Mehp

    Regrettably, Huerta has already been deemed guilty by the majority of the posters on WRAL.com. Therefore, any attempt to explain how Huerta shot himself while handcuffed is only wasting time on a human life that people have already written off.
    But I get the feeling that there is a piece to this story that is missing. And if I were of the family or friends of Huerta, I'd like an answer as well.
    I'm sure there is also some animosity toward lawyers in this case. But if you want to work within the legal system, it is best to have a lawyer.

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