City asks public to be 'patient' in wake of Durham Police incide - WNCN: News, Weather

City asks public to be 'patient' in wake of Durham Police incidents

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Three people have died in incidents involving Durham Police since July. Three people have died in incidents involving Durham Police since July.
DURHAM, N.C. -

As tensions mount between the community and Durham Police Department, the city manager is asking the public to be patient until investigations into three major incidents involving the department are finished.

Friday night, violence erupted at a vigil for 17-year-old Jesus Huerta, who was killed while in police custody last week.

Police say Officer Samuel Duncan was transporting Huerta to headquarters to pick up a warrant charging the teen with second-degree trespassing, but Huerta died while in the back of Duncan's cruiser.

The cause of Huerta's death has not been determined, but demonstrators protested his death Friday at the bronzed bull statue in downtown Durham.

What was supposed to be a peaceful demonstration turned violent as protestors smashed windows, threw firecrackers at police officers, and at least one cruiser was vandalized.

Some say the violence is an indication of growing frustration with the Durham Police Department. Huerta was the third person to die in an incident involving Durham Police since July; still, Chief Jose Lopez said he doesn't believe there is an organized effort to undermine the police department.

Lopez said he believes outsiders are the ones who turned Friday night's vigil violent, and he does not believe the public is losing confidence in the police department.

"This is not the norm that we see in Durham as far as individuals who are speaking their minds and protesting," Lopez said.

On Sept. 17, Derek Walker was shot by officers after he brandished a gun and threatened to kill himself at the bull statue. And on July 27, Jose Adan Cruz Ocampo was shot after he refused to drop a knife when surrounded by police.

Durham City Manager Tom Bonfield said all three incidents are still open investigations; and until they're finished, people shouldn't jump to conclusions. But he said he understands the community's frustration.

"The police department's been in the news a lot, and it's understandable to me how some could question their credibility," Durham City Manager Tom Bonfield said.

City Councilor Tom Moffitt, however, said his patience with the State Bureau of Investigation is running out.

"I'm personally frustrated by the long delays in getting investigative reports from the State Bureau of Investigation," Moffitt said. "I've been asked if I see a pattern, but no reports have been issued on any incident over the past year, and without the reports and the facts they contain, all any of us can do is offer conjecture.

"That doesn't serve the deceased, their families or the community."

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Steve Sbraccia

Steve is an award-winning reporter for WNCN and former assistant professor. A seasoned professional, Steve is proud to call the Triangle home since 2005 after over two decades in Boston, Mass.  More>>

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