SBI rebuts claim it did not consult Huerta's family in Durham

jwise@newsobserver.comJanuary 15, 2014 

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    A third march to honor Jesus Huerta will be held at 5:45 p.m. Sunday, at a start location to be announced. The march will end at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, 810 W. Chapel Hill St., where a prayer vigil will be held at 6:45 p.m.

— The State Bureau of Investigation had several conversations with Jesus Huerta’s family while investigating the teenager’s death in Durham police custody, the N.C. Attorney General’s Office said Wednesday.

The office was responding to criticism from the family contained in a statement issued by their attorney Alex Charns on Tuesday, according to Department of Justice spokeswoman Noelle Talley.

The statement claimed the SBI did not consult with the family about “what they might contribute before finishing its report,” despite a promise to do so, and that state investigators did not return a telephone call about the investigation.

“During the course of their investigation, SBI agents met with family members in person and spoke with them by telephone on a number of occasions,” the Attorney General’s Office responded in its own statement Wednesday.

“At the initial meeting with the Huerta family, agents explained that the SBI’s role in the case was to gather evidence to help determine whether or not Officer Samuel Duncan was criminally liable for Mr. Huerta’s death and that the investigation would be turned over to the district attorney who would decide whether criminal charges were warranted,” the statement continued.

The statement also said SBI agents “are available to meet with the Huerta family and with the DA’s office if requested to do so.”

In an email Wednesday, Charns said the Huertas were “heartened” by that statement.

“We have an item, an area of inquiry, upon which we will ask the SBI to follow-up. It is an investigative avenue that we want pursued. We look forward to working with the SBI in furtherance of this additional investigation,” Charns’ email continued. It did not elaborate.

Police say Huerta died Nov. 19 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound while in the back seat of a patrol car with his hands cuffed behind his back.

Duncan had arrested Huerta on an outstanding trespassing warrant after his family sought police help locating him. Huerta had left home during the night after a dispute with his mother over drug use, according to police.

Durham police and the Durham County district attorney’s office asked the SBI to investigate the death. According to the statement issued Wednesday, SBI agents finished their investigation and met with the district attorney on Jan. 2.

On Tuesday, District Attorney Leon Stanback said he found no probable cause for bringing criminal charges in the SBI results.

The Durham Police Department’s internal investigation continues.

Wise: 919-641-5895

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