Durham city manager releases details about teen's death in custody

A violent protest was most likely fueled by the mounting frustration over the SBI's tightlipped investigation.
November 25, 2013 4:00:01 PM PST
There's new information coming out about the shooting death of a Durham teenager who died in police custody last week.

The death of 17-year-old Jesus Huerta sparked a violent protest Friday night which was no doubt fueled by the mounting frustration over the SBI's tightlipped investigation.

Some of the questions that ABC11 has been repeatedly asked by viewers and others is whether the officer's weapon was compromised, was there another weapon in the patrol car, or was that teen armed?

Now, the city manager sheds light on what they know so far.

"It does not appear that any Durham police officer fired a weapon during this incident," said Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez last Tuesday on the day of the incident.

It's a statement that may have raised more questions than answers after Huerta was found shot to death inside a Durham police squad car with an apparent self-inflicted wound, but from whose weapon?

"I don't believe that police weapon was discharged," said Durham City Manager Tom Bonfield.

Bonfield confirmed the gun belonging to the officer who jumped from the squad car after hearing the gunfire was never compromised. He stopped short of saying whether the teen was armed or whether another weapon could have been in the back seat. Either way, it's the focus of an SBI probe.

It's also the frustration of hundreds of protesters who took to the streets in a peaceful protest that turned violent Friday.

"I'm as anxious as anyone to have these matters fully reviewed," said Bonfield.

Promising transparency, Bonfield says the city is at the mercy of the SBI's timeline.

A spokesperson tells us if two other officer-involved shootings are any indication, it could be months before Huerta's family gets answers.

"I feel terrible about," said Bonfield. "We don't know the circumstances. Please be patient with us."

When the SBI completes its investigation, its findings will be sent to the district attorney's office.

ABC11 checked with the Durham district attorney and so far, he's still waiting for an update the Huerta case and two other officer-involved shootings as well.

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