No charges filed in death of teen in Durham police custody
Posted January 14
Durham, N.C. — No criminal charges will be filed in the death of Jesus "Chuy" Huerta, a 17-year-old who shot himself in the head while in Durham police custody, Durham County District Attorney Leon Stanback said Tuesday.
Huerta died Nov. 19 shortly after Officer Samuel Duncan picked him up on an outstanding trespassing charge. He was handcuffed in the back of a patrol car when, according to an autopsy report released late last week, he died of a close-range gunshot to his mouth.
Stanback said his prosecutors reviewed a report of the shooting compiled by the State Bureau of Investigation and determined there was no probable cause for any criminal charges in the case.
Huerta's family had no comment on Stanback's decision, attorney Alexander Charns said, but they did question how the SBI report was compiled.
"The decision to charge another human being with a crime is a weighty one. We have not seen the SBI report, so we can’t know how the investigation was conducted, what evidence they followed and what evidence was not pursued," the family said in a statement. "We do know that, despite an SBI promise to the Huerta family to consult with them about what they might contribute before finishing its report, the SBI did not do so.
"The manner an investigation is conducted is important. Who is shown respect and what assumptions are brought into an investigation makes a difference in criminal investigations as it does in every aspect of life," the family said, adding that they are conducting their own investigation.
Stanback said his office would provide the family a copy of the SBI report.
"We will give the family access to the report, but we won't release the report in its entirety. That's not our policy," he said.
The Durham Police Department is investigating whether Duncan violated policies in how he handled Huerta's arrest. Duncan remains on administrative duty pending the outcome of that review.
The department released the preliminary findings of its internal investigation, which showed that Duncan missed a .45-caliber handgun Huerta was carrying when the officer frisked the teen before arresting him.
City Manager Tom Bonfield urged the department to complete its internal investigation as quickly as possible, and he said he would work with the Durham City Council to determine what parts of the report to release to the public to maintain confidence and trust in the department.