Local News

Police report on teen's death to be made public

Posted January 6, 2014 2:11 p.m. EST
Updated January 10, 2014 6:06 a.m. EST

— The Durham Police Department’s report on the death of Jesus Huerta, a teenager who reportedly shot himself in the head while he was in police custody, will be made public on Friday, Durham Mayor Bill Bell said. A press conference is scheduled for Friday at 2 p.m.

Watch the press conference live on WRAL.com.

Bell, the City Council and the city manager met behind closed doors Monday evening to discuss the internal investigation into the Nov. 19 shooting and seek advice from the city attorney about what is appropriate to release publicly.

"I also am mindful of the family that's involved and would hope that we would give them an opportunity to see the report as we release it, so they don't read about it in the newspaper," Bell said Monday morning.

Bell said before Monday's meeting that he didn't expect the report to answer all the questions surrounding Huerta's death.

Alex Charns, attorney for the Huerta family, questioned whether the city was going to release the entire report, including any witness interviews, photographs, video and communications.

"One cannot judge what one has not received," Charns said in a statement. "We will withhold judgment about the report until we receive the report, in its entirety, without redaction or information withheld."

Police Chief Jose Lopez has said the 17-year-old shot himself after he had been searched, handcuffed and placed in the back of a patrol car after an officer picked him up on an outstanding trespassing charge.

Huerta's family and friends, however, are not convinced by the police department's explanation.

A spokesman for Huerta's family said Monday that the family has asked to see the full internal affairs report. He added that the family has not yet decided if it would attend Monday afternoon's meeting.

Huerta's death has prompted two protest marches, including one on Dec. 19 that ended with six people being arrested after police in riot gear used tear gas to disperse a crowd.

Friends and family have also called for a federal investigation into the Durham Police Department about possible "patterns and practices" of civil rights violations within the department.

The state chapter of the NAACP will hold a separate news conference at 3 p.m. to discuss the release of the report and other concerns the group says it has about police actions. 

"The N.C. NAACP believes that all citizens must be treated fairly, equally and with respect," NAACP Legal Redress Committee Chairman Irv Joyner said in a statement. "Transparency and accountability are essential to ensuring this goal is achieved, especially for the Huerta family and their community, but also on an ongoing basis."

The internal investigation isn't the only one in the case. Last week, the State Bureau of Investigation submitted its report to the Durham County District Attorney's Office for review.

Prosecutors, however, are awaiting the results of Huerta's autopsy report before deciding how to proceed in the case.