Local/State

Durham leaders get Huerta teen shooting case information

Monday, January 06, 2014

Family members of Jesus Huerta and the public are getting closer to learning more about the teen's death in police custody.

Durham Mayor Bill Bell says the city will release the internal affairs report on Huerta's death later this week.

It comes more than a month after police say Huerta shot himself in the head while in the back of a squad car.

The mayor didn't specify exactly when, but said a summary of those findings from police would be made public sometime this week. Bell announced that decision at the beginning of the Monday's city council meeting.

The mayor and council didn't see an actual report. They heard an oral presentation and asked questions. This means when the report is released it will be the first time a written summary is made available.

"It's important that we release as much information as we possibly can," said Bell, about the police department's internal affairs report on Huerta's death.

Bell says the department's lawyer delivered an oral report to him and other city council members during a closed-door meeting.

"A young man lost his life, and it has impacted this community," said Bell.

The move to release the findings comes at the advice of City Manager Tom Bonfield following several weeks of demands from Huerta's family.

"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," said Bell.

Police say an officer placed the teen in the back of a patrol car November 19 after he was arrested on a second-degree trespassing charge. As the car pulled into the police department parking lot around 2:30 in the morning, the officer reported hearing a loud bang and he jumped out of the moving car, which then rolled into parked vehicles.

Huerta was found dead of a gunshot wound in the back of the cruiser. Police have said it was an apparent suicide, but there were immediate questions about how the teen got the gun and how he could shoot himself if his hands were cuffed behind him.

Early on, Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez revealed that investigators found gunshot residue on gloves Huerta was wearing, and not the arresting officer's hands.

Doubt and suspicion over trickling details prompted two violent protests. One resulted in damaged police property. The other ended with officers in riot gear spraying tear gas.

While the report will show whether the officer searched Huerta, how he managed to shoot himself and who the gun belonged to, Bell acknowledged those answers won't bring complete satisfaction.

"The fact that the police department is doing it," said Bell. "I'm sure people are still going to question that, but the fact is that's one of the roles that they have and that are who we have to depend on right now."

Bell also acknowledged that this is a working investigation, so more info could surface.

The SBI still has its own investigation, which won't be complete until they get autopsy results. The district attorney will get that report, and decide what to do next.

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Tags:
north carolina news, durham county news, shooting, jesus huerta, local/state, fred shropshire
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