Durham police radio traffic indicates they considered Huerta a 'runaway'

tmcdonald@newsobserver.comNovember 25, 2013 

— The teen who died in the back seat of a Durham police car last week was considered a runaway when he walked out of his mother’s apartment an hour earlier, according to a recording of police radio traffic made public Monday.

The recording also indicated that police found Jesus Huerta, 17, near the intersection of Trinity and Washington streets, roughly two blocks from where he lived. It had taken officers about four minutes to find him, according to the recording.

What's not disclosed on the eight-minute recording is why police decided to arrest Huerta and charge him with second-degree trespassing instead of taking him home.

Huerta’s mother, Sylvia Fernandez, asked one of her daughters to call 911 when her son left the family’s apartment in the 1200 block of Washington Street about 2 a.m., according to his family. The 911 caller told an emergency dispatcher that her mother had caught her brother “using drugs” before he stormed out of the home.

Sylvia Fernandez worried about him being out and wanted police to pick him up for his own safety, the family said later. A police dispatcher refers to the teen as a “runaway,” as does the officer looking for him.

Huerta, a 10th-grader at Riverside High in Durham, 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. Duncan reported hearing a loud noise from the back seat and jumped from the car, police said.

Just before 3 a.m. Tuesday, a police officer radioed emergency dispatchers to report “shots fired” in the headquarters parking lot, according to a recording of police radio traffic released last week. The officer then asked for medical assistance for a gunshot wound, “approximately 18-year-old male, not breathing,” according to the recording.

Duncan has been placed on administrative leave with pay while the SBI investigates Huerta’s death. The agency was already investigating two other deaths involving Durham police officers.

McDonald: 919-829-4533

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