DURHAM: Internal police report on Huerta case to be made public - WNCN: News, Weather

Internal police report on Huerta case to be made public

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DURHAM, N.C. -

The City of Durham will release an internal affairs report detailing the police account of how a teenager died while in police custody in November.

City councilors unanimously voted behind closed doors Monday night to make public an internal report on the Jesus Huerta case.

The 17-year-old was arrested on a trespassing charge in the early morning hours of Nov. 19, but was later found dead in the back seat of a police cruiser. Durham Police said Huerta died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The Huerta family does not believe that story, mainly because Huerta was handcuffed from behind when he died.  Police have also not said how a gun found its way into Huerta's possession in the first place.

Mayor Bill Bell addressed the issue at the start of Monday night's public council meeting that followed the closed-door session.

"A young man lost his life," Bell said. "Obviously that has had an impact on his family and others in the community, so we don't take that lightly."

Bell said the release of the report was essential to making sure the public can keep good faith in city officials. Members of council were briefed in private over what's in the report, but Bell said the public will have to wait until the written report is released to find out what's in it.

"We're going to release it. It's going to be done this week and we're going to give a lot of consideration to making sure the family sees it just as soon as the public sees it," Bell said.

Even when the report is released, Bell said questions will remain that can only be answered by the State Bureau of Investigation, which is still waiting on findings from the state medical examiner before it presents a final word on what happened.

"We're never going to get all the answers and I wasn't there, so you know we have to depend on what the professionals have to tell us," Bell said.

When reached for comment, an attorney representing the Huerta family said the family would withhold judgement until they see the full internal affairs report for themselves, "in its entirety, without redaction or information withheld."

Last month, two demonstrations against police regarding the department's handling of the Huerta case turned violent. In one protest, officers used tear gas to disperse crowds that had gathered in downtown Durham. Police said some in the crowd threw rocks and bottles at officers.

Police Chief Jose Lopez called the police actions at a later march appropriate.

"We were able to properly address the individuals who came with a negative intent," Lopez said.

But that same day, Huerta's family held a news conference in which they forcefully challenged the action's of the police.

Huerta's sister, Evelin Huerta, had harsh words for Lopez and the Durham Police, saying, "We don't trust Chief Lopez. We don't trust the police at this moment."

"My brother's death is still a mystery," she said then. "Every time Chief Lopez says something, it brings out more questions."

DURHAM POLICE TIMELINE

  • July 27: Jose Adan Cruz Ocampo, 33, is shot after refusing to drop a knife when surrounded by police in front of 806 Park Avenue.
  • Sept. 17: Durham Police shoot Derek Walker, 26, on a Tuesday afternoon when he brandishes a gun in downtown. Walker dies shortly afterward.
  • Nov. 19: Jesus Huerta, 17, dies after apparently shooting himself in the back of a police cruiser.
  • Dec. 19: Durham Police use tear gas to break up a march and vigil held downtown one month after the death of Jesus Huerta.

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Derick Waller

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