Durham Mayor Bill Bell has it right in saying that the Durham Police Department should release its internal report on the Nov. 19 death of 17-year-old Jesus Chuy Huerta, who was shot in the back seat of a police car.
Police Chief Jose Lopez, who has not handled the fallout from this incident well at all, has left people confused in his piecemeal discussion of the death. Lopez says that Huerta shot himself in the head while his hands were handcuffed behind his back and that gunshot residue was found on a glove the teen was wearing.
Strange things happen all the time in police work, things that dont seem to make sense but are in fact the truth. In this case, Lopez has added to the confusion more than he has cleared it up. And the contention that the police have to wait for a State Bureau of Investigation report at this point doesnt have a lot of credibility. If police conduct their own investigation, they ought to release the results, period. This is a public office; there is no gray area here. The public is owed an explanation, and Lopezs reputation and that of some in his department are being hurt by all the mystery around this case.
What harm can be done with the release of a report? None. Why is Lopez hesitant? No one knows. The chief has never been particularly skillful in his handling of controversies.
The report should be released now.