New evidence in Durham teen's death prompts meeting between authorities, family
Posted January 22, 2014
Updated January 23, 2014
Durham, N.C. — 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.