Local News

No charges filed in death of teen in Durham police custody

Posted January 14

— 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.

86 Comments

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  • pinehorse Jan 20, 4:58 p.m.

    As an LEO it's not my fault if you choose to commit suicide while in my presence. Lost as to why this is turning into such a saga.

  • firecaptain2000 Jan 15, 7:06 p.m.

    @CLC72.... Agreed... But, cops are human and they will make mistakes. I am certain the cop will receive the appropriate punishment including the fact that he has to live with this outcome too. My point is the family has done nothing to accept ANY responsibility for how this boy lived his life and the danger he posed to society and obviously himself. It's not up to the family to ensure the cop receives his due. That is a personnel matter for his chain of command to sort through because the District Attorney has washed his hands of it. The family just doesn't get it. If they want public sympathy they need to take some responsibility and lighten up on the cop. He is not 100% responsible as they want to believe.

  • clc72 Jan 15, 5:14 p.m.

    The bottom line is a child, who had an outstanding warrant was carrying a gun and he's dead. ... View More

    — Posted by firecaptain2000

    Everything you say here is true, except the part at the very end. This child did make a bad decision (it seems he made a series of bad decisions). but so did the LEO. He made the decision not to follow procedure and he put his life and the lives of others in danger and he should be held accountable for that.

    The police are necessary and they do keep the peace and we do need them. But policies and procedures for handling suspects are put in place for a reason. A cop's job is dangerous enough as it is without adding to the danger by having an officer on the force who is either unwilling or unable to follow simple procedure. Cops are trained to frisk suspects correctly for a reason. They are trained to log into the system for a reason. This officer's failures put his own life in danger, and worse the lives of others in danger. He should held accountable for that.

  • sandim50 Jan 15, 5:08 p.m.

    O'k the requested report is in and final.

    For all of those who screamed for the SBI report, please accept it. It may not have had the kind of answer you wanted, but they gave it a fair shake. I am sure that some ambulance chasing lawyer, will want to start a civil action. I am sure that can be one, to "keep peace in the valley"

    We still do not know if he had the gun on him, since it may have been in vehicle. For reports that I read in depth, in this type of situation the police can only do a VERY limited search.

  • 678devilish Jan 15, 4:24 p.m.

    The family needs to now except the final decision and move on. They will still be able to have his memories forever. I know the results is not what they were looking for, but it is what it is. But personally I do believe the rookie cop should have been fired. He did not check this person out clearly before allowing him in the vehicle.

  • firecaptain2000 Jan 15, 3:43 p.m.

    The bottom line is a child, who had an outstanding warrant was carrying a gun and he's dead. The life he chose to lead brought him into this situation. Period! You can continue to blame this on the cop all you want, but if people would act like they have some good home training there would be no need for cops in this world and this situation would never have happened. Cops don't exist because of accidental situations. They exist because people make poor choices and someone has to intervene for the good of the innocent public. You're not going to find any perfect cops.... just brave ones who rush into these domestic situations, so you, I and the rest of our neighborhood can live in peace. Whether it's petty crime or major crime the common denominator in every one of these tragic situations is the person who created the problem by making poor choices... not the cop!

  • clc72 Jan 15, 2:35 p.m.

    Why do people say the police officer's actions resulted in this boy's death? No matter what,... View More

    — Posted by OleNCNative

    If the officer had properly searched the suspect, the gun would have been found and the kids would have faced a firearms charge instead of being dead. Anything else is simply a misrepresentation of the truth.

  • clc72 Jan 15, 2:32 p.m.

    firecaptain2000

    So very well said. This family is being coached by an attorney (nice word for... View More

    — Posted by PDMARTIN

    No, it's not enough.

    Look, I feel bad for the officer. I'm sure this will haunt him for the rest... View More

    — Posted by clc72

    How is #2 my opinion? It has been stated in various news stories the the suspect arrested with Mr. Huerta stated that the arresting officers only did a quick, non-thorough search and that his statement contradicted the previous statements of both arresting officers. Plus, we KNOW the suspect was not properly searched because the gun was not found. Therefore, the arresting officer's statement that he searched the suspects thoroughly is a lie. And giving providing false information to an officer conducting an investigation is not only against policy, but can also be construed as a crime - hindering or impeding an investigation.

  • OleNCNative Jan 15, 2:29 p.m.

    Why do people say the police officer's actions resulted in this boy's death? No matter what, the boy was carrying and illegal gun and pulled the trigger. Anything else is simply a misrepresentation of the truth.

  • jcthai Jan 15, 2:19 p.m.

    This poor young man felt overwhelming despair when he was arrested on the initial charge of... View More

    — Posted by keithjinnc

    Nope. You can't dismiss this officer's conduct simply because you THINK that the kid's family could have done more. He was in the custody of the Durham Police Dept and they screwed up resulting in the death of this kid. You need to look at their actions separately from anything anyone else did or could have done.

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