Police issue warning about Huerta vigil

Angry protesters broke windows at Durham police headquarters last month during a similar event.
December 17, 2013 9:00:00 PM PST
Durham police have issued a warning about a vigil planned Thursday night for Jesus Huerta.

Investigators say the 17 year old died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound while in police custody Nov. 19. There are still many questions about his death.

A protest outside Durham Police Headquarters last month turned violent. Several windows in the building were broken and a police car was damaged.

Police said Wednesday that while protesters have not gotten a permit for Thursday's event, they will allow it to go forward. Because there is no permit, police said they don't know what path the event plans to take and streets will not be blocked for pedestrians. They said protesters will have to stick to the public plaza and sidewalks.

A department spokeswoman said it contacted the man identified on social media as the coordinator of Thursday's vigil but he hung up on them.

"While we obtained a telephone number for Rafael Estrada Maya, he declined to speak about the event and hung up," said Deputy Police Chief Larry Smith.

Maya also did not respond to a text message to about the event.

The attorney for Huerta family issued a statement Thursday critical of the police department.

"Rather than respond to legitimate Public Records Act requests and inquiries of a family in mourning, a family searching for answers, the police chief spends his time issuing a press release warning Durham citizens about how he will allow them to exercise their First Amendment rights," offered M. Alexander Charns.

Durham police say they're planning to beef up their presence at CCB Plaza downtown for Thursday's vigil. They're also asking for protesters to remain peaceful.

In a statement, police said: "The Police Department fully respects our citizens' First Amendment rights, but must also take steps to ensure a safe, peaceful and orderly event. To that end, our expectations include:

  • No impeding traffic by blocking or marching upon the City streets;
  • No entry upon  the Police Headquarters parking areas or grassy areas immediately adjoining the Police Headquarters building;
  • No possession or use of pyrotechnics;
  • No wearing masks, hoods or devices which conceal the identity of the wearer;
  • No damage to property;
  • No disorderly conduct."

At last month's protest, officers arrested 19-year-old Shahqeel Alexander McCrimmon and charged him with failure to disperse on command, holding a meeting/demonstration while wearing a mask or hood and causing a public disturbance. He was released from jail after posting a $1,500 bond.

A 14-year-old male was also charged with injury to property and released to the custody of his parents.

November 19, police arrested Huerta for trespassing and had arrived at the police station when police said he shot himself in the back of a police cruiser. Police policies call for prisoners to be searched to ensure prisoners don't have weapons. Police have said the gun did not belong to a law enforcement officer.

The SBI is investigating.

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