Warrants released in Durham Jesus Huerta shooting case

Police say teen managed to get a gun and shoot himself in a squad car, but the family still has questions.
January 6, 2014 9:00:00 PM PST
Warrants released Tuesday contain evidence linking 17-year-old Jesus Huerta to Durham-area burglaries prior to his shooting death.

Huerta was arrested by Durham police Nov. 19 on a second-degree trespassing charge. He was placed in the back of a squad car and taken to police headquarters. But as the car pulled into the parking lot around 2:30 a.m., the officer driving 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. Department policy requires prisoners to be searched before they're transported.

The warrants made public Tuesday reveal the contents of a backpack belonging to Huerta. Police said they found jewelry and electronics that were taken in a series of residential break-ins from homes near Huerta's Washington Street address.

The stolen goods have been connected to a home break-in a few nights earlier on Haverford Street. The warrant also says the Haverford Street break-in was similar to three other November burglaries, which were all within blocks of each other.

Meanwhile, Huerta's family is very skeptical about the new information. The family's attorney released a statement questioning the timing of the search warrant.

"If the police believed any of this, wouldn't it give them a good reason to properly search and secure a teen whose family called the police asking for help," asked attorney Alex Charms. "Why wasn't this search warrant served on the family? Why was this released today?"

The Huerta family is still demanding answers on why police didn't search the teen for a gun before detaining him, and how he was able to shoot himself.

The results of a Durham Police Department internal affairs investigation and an SBI probe into Huerta's death have not yet been made public. Durham Mayor Bill Bell and the rest of the city council got a closed-door briefing on the contents of the internal affairs report Monday evening. They said the city will release details of the report later this week.

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 have prompted two violent protests. One resulted in damaged police property. The other ended with officers in riot gear spraying tear gas.

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