Six people arrested during Jesus Huerta march

Six people were arrested during the third Jesus Huerta march, leaving city leaders anxious about the next protest.
January 20, 2014 5:24:11 PM PST
A third march Sunday night in memory of a Durham teenager who died while in police custody turned violent with damage to police property and arrests.

Investigators say 17-year-old Jesus Huerta shot and killed himself while handcuffed in the back of a police cruiser at Durham Police Department headquarters back in November.

Since then, loved ones and supporters have gathered three times. The vigils have turned into violent protests.

At Sunday night's march, there were six arrests. Authorities say the marchers damaged the Durham Police Department's District 5 substation, several police cars, and sprayed graffiti at several locations along the march route.

An ABC11 crew on the scene saw windows shattered in a Durham police car, the word "pig" spray-painted on the side door of the car, and windows broken at the substation.

Officials say no one was injured.

Police say they covertly monitored the approximately 120 marchers who were carrying drums and many times blocking downtown streets. Some marchers donned masks as they approached the District 5 substation on Rigsbee Avenue.

Authorities say four adults were arrested on charges of unauthorized entry and assembly in a city owned parking facility and resist, delay and obstruct. Two juveniles were also charged with the same charges but released to their parents. No arrests have been made for the vandalism.

Sunday's events started at 5:30 p.m. with a service at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church on Chapel Hill Street. Marchers then walked their way to the Durham Police Department, which is where Huerta died.

The march ended back at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in time for a vigil at 7 p.m. The vigil had a much different atmosphere than the march.

The Huerta family organized the vigil and Durham Police Chief Joes Lopez was among the crowd along with several city leaders.

"We are here to help the family, be supportive of the family, and to help our community heal," said Durham City Councilman Steve Schewel.

While the tone inside the church was peaceful, the violence outside may be proof that many in the city may not be ready to start that healing process. The family has said in the past that they plan to host a vigil every monthly anniversary of Huerta's death. March organizers seem to be doing the same.

No word yet on whether there will be another protest next month, either way city leaders say this cannot happen, again.

On Monday, Durham Mayor Bill Bell said the marchers' message is getting lost in the violence.

"We're very much an activist community so we don't have a problem with marches, but when they cause vandalism any sympathy people might have for marches sort of goes by the wayside," Bell said. "I would just hope that if they plan to do things in the future, they'll make sure they will be more peaceful so that we don't have the sort of vandalism we had this past night."

"We've always said from the beginning peaceful, peaceful. We've made that clear to every single person. Our intention has never been to cause more damage. We can't control people out of our circle. We can't control them," Evelin Huerta told ABC11.

Huerta's death and the police department's decision to release very little information right after it happened prompted a lot of suspicion and questions.

Last Tuesday, Durham County District Attorney A. Leon Stanback announced no charges would be filed in the teen's death - saying an SBI probe of the incident did not find evidence a crime occurred.

Police released the highlights of an internal affairs report in which they said Huerta was arrested Nov. 19 after his family called to report he had run away. When officers found him, they discovered an outstanding arrest warrant for a second-degree trespassing charge and decided to take him into custody.

Huerta 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.

Investigators said it appears Huerta had the .45 caliber pistol hidden somewhere on his person, and it was not found in the search.

Last week, Huerta's family said the Durham Police Department's internal affairs report "glossed over" statements from Huerta's friend who was arrested at the same time. That friend said neither he nor Huerta had a weapon. It also claims officers failed to adequately protect the troubled teen from himself.

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