ABC11 Investigates

Report sheds light on violent protest over Jesus Huerta's death

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The pursuit for justice isn't over for the family of Jesus Huerta. They are pushing for a new SBI investigation after the Durham County district attorney decided against criminal charges.

Meanwhile, one of the six people arrested during a vigil turned protest over Huerta's death in December was in court Wednesday.

Gustavo Gutierrez, 22, faces trespassing charges from this night of chaos, but his attorney says he's not to blame.

"My clients were at the vigil in peace," said defense attorney Yesenia Polanco, who is representing five people arrested that night. "Both sides were scared. The police department may have over-prepared or just have been hypersensitive because of incidents that happened in the past."

However, that's not how Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez sees it. In his report to the city manager, which was obtained Wednesday by ABC11, Lopez reveals for the first time that "undercover officers" were in the crowd.

Describing the group as "increasingly hostile," police say people wearing black bandanas handed out anarchist literature with tips on how to assault officers and escape. Another undercover officer claims to have seen people picking up "large rocks" and concealing them in "backpacks."

At first, police said a team in riot gear was at a staging area, out of sight, but as the group moved closer to police headquarters and filled the parking lot, officers formed a line and pushed the crowd back.  

The report maps out where rocks were thrown from. One of them hit an officer in the face and chest.

According to the report, the first smoke bomb came from protesters. It was then that officers equipped with tear gas responded.

Police deny hitting protesters with batons or other devices. They say the incident which made national headlines has taught them a few tactical lessons. Just not the kind Polanco had in mind.

"I hope that for the future, for the next vigils, that both the police department and the community lose a little bit of the fear," said Polanco.

Sunday night will show if any lessons were learned because it's the next scheduled vigil.

Late Wednesday afternoon, text messages from city leaders from the night of the Huerta shooting were released.

The first is from Lopez at 3:32 a.m. the morning Huerta died. He told City Manager Tom Bonfield: "17 yr old male was arrested, but not searched well and had a gun concealed, shot himself in back of police car while at the rear of police headquarters. He has died."

Bonfield responded at 6:44 a.m.: "Thanks. What do we know about him and what he was arrested for? Is SBI investigating?"

Lopez replied immediately: " He is a h/m. Arrested for trespassing. Had been reported as a runaway earlier. Was with another 17 yr old male runaway when arrested. He was handcuffed behind his back and appears to have draw the gun (full size 45) to the front to fire. Officer heard the shot and jumped out of the car which rolled down our parking lot, resting when it struck an unmarked car. Officer not injured, placed on admin leave. SBI is investigating. No background on 17 yr old yet."

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Tags:
north carolina news, durham county news, shooting, jesus huerta, iteam, abc11 investigates, tamara gibbs
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