Durham teen who died in patrol car suffered gunshot wound, according to 911 call

tmcdonald@newsobserver.comNovember 20, 2013 

— A 17-year-old boy who died in the back seat of a Durham police car early Tuesday morning suffered a gunshot wound, according to a 911 recording made public Wednesday.

Jesus Huerta was in the back seat of a patrol car driven by officer Samuel A.M. Duncan in the parking lot at police headquarters on East Chapel Hill Street when he died, police said Tuesday. Duncan heard a loud noise from the backseat and jumped from the car, leaving it to roll into a van in the parking lot, police said.

Just before 3 a.m. Tuesday, a police officer radioed emergency dispatchers to report “three shots fired” in the headquarters parking lot. The dispatcher asked the officer if he was hurt, according to a recording of the exchange. “I don’t believe so,” the officer replied.

The officer then asked for medical assistance for a gunshot wound, “approximately 18-year-old male, not breathing,” according to the recording released by the Durham Police Department.

At a news conference after the shooting Tuesday morning, Police Chief Jose Lopez said police didn’t know how Huerta died but said it did not appear that Duncan or any other Durham police officer fired a weapon.

Durham police, citing the investigation of the incident, declined to comment Wednesday on the 911 tape or to answer more questions.

Huerta’s older siblings, sister Evelin Fernandez and brother Raziel Huerta, said Wednesday that police had not told the family how he died. But if police are suggesting that he killed himself, they said they don’t see how that’s possible.

“Wasn’t he handcuffed? Did they search him?” said Raziel Huerta, 27. “He didn’t have a gun. If there was a gun, I don’t know where it came from. Was it on the seat?”

Speaking in front of the family’s apartment on Washington Street on Wednesday afternoon, the older siblings said Huerta’s mother, Sylvia Fernandez, called police about 2 a.m. after her son left the home. She worried about him being out and wanted police to pick him up for his own safety, they said.

Huerta was playing video games in the living room before he left, Raziel said. He wanted to go out, but his mother told him it was late and that he should be in bed.

“All of a sudden, he opened the door and left,” Raziel Huerta said. “My mom felt scared and called the police.”

A recording of the 911 call indicates that a sister called on her mother’s behalf and said Huerta left the house because his mother had caught him using drugs. The caller, whose name is not revealed, said the family was worried because he once “tried to take his life,” according to the 911 recording.

“One time, he wanted to jump from the window” because “he thinks his mother does not love him,” the caller told the dispatcher.

Raziel Huerta said his brother was a normal teen who liked playing video games and sometimes dreamed of being a firefighter or an attorney. He said his brother once tried to jump out of a first-story window at the family home because he wanted to get out of the house, not because he wanted to take his own life.

“He was hanging out, trying to be cool. He had, like, a little swagger,” Raziel Huerta said. “He was not depressed.”

The family thinks police picked up Jesus Huerta about two blocks from home. They don’t understand why he was charged with trespassing.

“Where was he trespassing?” Raziel Huerta asked. “He was walking down the street. It’s a free country.”

The Durham Police Department has placed Duncan on administrative leave with pay pending an investigation of the case by the State Bureau of Investigation, which is standard procedure, Lopez said. He said the department’s homicide unit and its professional standards division also are investigating.

Staff writer Jon Alexander contributed to this report.

McDonald: 919-829-4533

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service