CommunityMy FDL

Jesus Huerta Shot to Death in a Police Car; the Top Cop’s Calling it Suicide

On November 19, 17-year-old Jesus Huerta, a student at Riverside High School in Durham, N.C.  was shot to death in the back of a police car, his hands cuffed behind his back.  Here’s the initial report from WNCN on Nov. 19:–B44


No cop fired no gun…no how, no way.  And oy: those egregious charges (that were dismissed).  By the way, what’s a ‘burglary tool’?

Leyla Santiago had more information the following day; that Huerta was said to be suicidal once before seemed to have been walked back by his family.  I don’t know when the family was finally allowed to see or identify his body:


This is a presser with Durham Chief of Police Jose Lopez on Dec. 11:



A gunshot wound to the head…a handgun, not police issue, no cops fired their weapons.  Unusual, dunno if it were intentional or accidental, says Chief.  No comment on the other teen who was with him when Huerta was arrested; he was apparently questioned and released.

From CNN, reporting on the vigil for Huerta that ‘turned violent (my bolds throughout):

The Durham Police Department says Huerta died on November 19 from a self-inflicted gunshot while handcuffed in the back of a police cruiser. The teen was being taken to the police station by Officer Samuel Duncan about 3 a.m. for a second-degree trespassing violation.

The chief said at the news conference that gunshot residue tests were conducted on Huerta and the arresting officer, and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation “found that Huerta was wearing gloves and that his gloves had a saturation of gunshot residue on it. Officer Duncan’s revealed that he had no gunshot residue on his hands,” Lopez said.


Those attending the vigil were ‘Occupying the premises unlawfully’.  Chief Lopez was proud of his officers’ ‘professionalism and restraint because it had the potential to be much worse.

On Dec. 12, Lopez said that the medical examiner had ruled Huerta’s death a suicide, but, from

‘However, state officials told The Herald-Sun that although an autopsy was completed weeks ago, no report had been released nor was it available Wednesday.

It remains unclear exactly how Huerta – who Lopez said was searched and cuffed behind the back by Officer Samuel Duncan before he was put into the patrol car – managed to get a gun into the car with him, let alone pull the trigger. [snip]

Duncan found an outstanding warrant for a second-degree trespassing charge against Huerta. The officer then handcuffed, searched and detained Huerta in the back seat.

On the way to the Durham County Jail, Duncan stopped at police headquarters on Chapel Hill Street to obtain a copy of the warrant. As he pulled into the parking lot, the officer heard what he thought was a gunshot and “jumped from the vehicle for fear of being shot,” Lopez said. The car, still moving, rolled through the parking lot until it stopped against another parked vehicle. [snip]

Investigators found a handgun on the floorboard of the patrol car.

“Our department continues to investigate the origin of the weapon, but we can confirm that it was not a departmental weapon and no officer fired a weapon during this incident,” Lopez said.’

Ever hear of cops carrying throw-down weapons, Chief?

By now, the Mayor Bill Bell of Durham is pushing for answers in death of Jesus Huerta, according to, and that the Chairman of the US Commission on Civil Rights is interested in the case, but so far only in a personal capacity, for what that’s worth.  He’d asked for a meeting with Bell, but that meeting has been postponed.  In addition:

‘Bell said information about the Huerta case could be available next week. Still, the email is just the latest demand for answers in the death of Huerta.

Two rallies have been held for the teen, one of which was broken up by police in full riot gear using tear gas outside police headquarters. This has led to some calling for Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez’s resignation or firing.

But Bell said Lopez work(s) for the city manager, not for city council, and the manager says Lopez’s status is a personnel issue.

Bell said all he can do is push for answers, which he said he’s done with the State Bureau of Investigation, attorney general and Durham Police.

“If they can’t release information because they’re waiting on the SBI, they’re waiting on the chief medical examiner, waiting on whomever, all they need to do is tell us that. We can understand that,” Bell said. “But, not to say anything, especially when you’ve announced that you’re doing an investigation, that’s unacceptable.”

On Dec. 16, the Durham News reported on allegations against the DPD, and they do cause some concern for the fact that it’s a police department under fire, aside from Huerta’s case.

‘For more than a year, accusations of police violence, racism and coverups have mounted with few definitive answers. Three pending cases in the hands of the State Bureau of Investigation haven’t helped resolve the controversy. [snip]

The SBI was already investigating two other Durham cases of officer-involved deaths within six months. On July 27, Jose Adan Cruz Ocampo, 33, on July 27, and Derek Deandre Walker, 26, Sept. 17. Ocampo was a suspect in a non-fatal stabbing; Walker was fatally shot after pointing his gun at police in a downtown standoff.

Results of those investigations have yet to be made public.

• In October 2012, Stephanie Nickerson was arrested for resisting and assaulting an officer who, she claimed, beat her. Her complaint led to a series of demonstrations at Police Headquarters before the officer, Cpl. Brian Schnee, resigned and a judge dismissed the charges.

• In December 2012, police arrested Carlos A. Riley Jr. for shooting a plainclothes officer during a traffic stop. Riley’s supporters claim the officer accidentally shot himself, and that the stop was an unwarranted case of racial profiling. Riley’s case has yet to come to court.

• Calls for justice in the Nickerson and Riley cases were prominent in a Martin Luther King Day march last January, when state NAACP Vice President Curtis Gatewood said, “Brutality is still alive and well … right here in your neighborhood.”

• In February 2013, Assistant Police Chief Winslow Forbes complained to city authorities that he had been passed over for promotion because he had objected to racist attitudes and actions by Lopez. After a city-hired consultant found his charges “not substantiated” in June Forbes filed a civil-rights complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The complaint has not been resolved.

• In July, Ocampo was fatally shot. Initial police accounts conflicted with a death certificate which said Ocampo was killed while fleeing; and the Civil Litigation Clinic at N.C. Central University hired a private investigator after eyewitnesses said Ocampo was handing a knife to officers, hilt-first, when he was shot. Ocampo was a suspect in a non-fatal stabbing.

• In August, Lopez was accused of saying that a bystander wounded in a drive-by shooting deserved it because the bystander was a public defender. The bystander was not, in fact, a public defender, and Lopez later said he did not remember making the remark although “someone may have” and apologized.

• In September, a group of citizens appeared at a City Council work session complaining of profiling and other racist behavior by Durham police. Their claims prompted Mayor Bill Bell to direct the city’s Human Relations Commission to investigate. The commission began work in October, and its investigation is still ongoing.

Then, Jose Huerta died.

You can read Cheif Lopez’s defense of himself here under Uncertaintiesin bold; I won’t give him the space, cuz I don’t have to.

You should still be alive, Jesus, and living with your family.  May peace come to them some time in the future, and may justice be done.  For you, and all those who suffer death at the hands of barbaric police: Los Lobos knew it could be any night in Amerika that one more light like yours goes out.  We need to work together to stop it somehow. has a petition to Eric Holder you can sign asking for a federal investigation.  I’d found one at to James Comey, but it was just wrong, and conceded all the crap the cops were saying, bah.


(cross-posted at

Previous post

Don't Take Your Legal Pot to Denver Airport

Next post

The New Year’s Ghost of Presidential Legacies Past