Durham mayor expects to receive police report of Huerta shooting next week

tmcdonald@newsobserver.comJanuary 2, 2014 

— Mayor Bill Bell said Thursday that he expects the Durham Police Department to release a report next week that will detail how a high school student was fatally shot in the back seat of a patrol car in the parking lot of the police department’s downtown headquarters.

Meanwhile, agents with the State Bureau of Investigation met with Durham County District Attorney Leon Stanback on Thursday to present the results of their investigation into the incident, with one exception: the autopsy report for the teen, Jesus Huerta, is not complete.

“The report is complete except for the final autopsy report which isn’t available yet,” state Department of Justice spokeswoman Noelle Talley wrote in an email to The News & Observer. “SBI investigations into deaths always include a final autopsy report. It isn’t unusual for agents to share their findings when all that is left to get us the final autopsy.”

Roger Echols, an assistant Durham district attorney, said Thursday his office received part of the report on Tuesday and another portion, including photos, on Thursday. Echols declined to say what was in the report, which he said was being “thoroughly reviewed.”

“I really can’t speak about the details or the findings, but we hope to get the full report sooner rather than later,” he said.

Bell said he was made aware of the SBI report on Thursday, but he did not expect the district attorney to share the findings with his office because it is an independent investigation.

“But I still expect the police to release their findings next week,” Bell said.

Huerta, 17, was found shot dead while handcuffed in the back of a police patrol car Nov. 19 after he had been picked up on a trespassing charge. About two hours before the shooting, his mother, Sylvia Fernandez, who lived with her son in the 1200 block of Washington Street, phoned 911 to report that he had left their apartment about 2 a.m. without her permission.

An emergency dispatcher described Huerta as a runaway when a police officer picked him up near the intersection of Washington and Trinity streets, about three blocks from his home. Another teen who was with Huerta, Jamie Perez, 17, was cited for resisting, delaying and obstructing an officer and released, according to records at the Durham County Clerk of Courts Office.

Officer Samuel Duncan transported Huerta to police department headquarters on West Chapel Hill Street. In the parking lot, Duncan called an emergency dispatcher and reported “shots fired” after jumping out of the car, which rolled into a parked van. Duncan went back to the car and reported that Huerta was not breathing. The teen died at the scene.

Hours later, Police Chief Jose Lopez said that shots had been fired, but that neither Duncan nor any other officer had fired their weapons. He later said Huerta, while handcuffed with his hands behind him, had died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Lopez also later announced that the SBI had confirmed Huerta was wearing gloves while handcuffed and that the gloves had gunshot residue on them.

The shooting has cast the police department in a negative spotlight and was the third officer-involved shooting since July.

On July 27, Jose Adan Cruz Ocampo, 33, was shot in the head by a police officer. He was a suspect in a nonfatal stabbing. On Sept. 17, Derek Deandre Walker, 26, was fatally shot after pointing his gun at police in a downtown standoff. The SBI was investigating those shootings before Huerta’s death in November.

Two marches in downtown Durham in support of Huerta’s family have ended with arrests after objects were thrown at police and windows were shattered. Police responded to the second march in riot gear and lobbed tear gas canisters after ordering marchers to disperse.

Bell said last week that the chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights asked to meet with him about the Huerta case. The mayor also said that about two weeks ago he asked the state Attorney General and the director of the SBI to speed up the SBI review of the fatal shooting.

McDonald: 919-829-4533

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