Huerta family asks for peace; 6 protestors arrested in march

jalexander@newsobserver.comJanuary 19, 2014 

  • How to help

    Members of the Huerta family say they need help with burial expenses. El Centro Hispano is a nonprofit organization collecting the donations. Donations can be made directly or by mail at El Centro Hispano: 600 E. Main St. Durham, NC 27701, or through their website: elcentronc.org. In both cases designate “For Huerta Family.”

— Evelin Huerta, Jesus Huerta’s sister, stood at the front of the sanctuary at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church Sunday, with tears in her eyes, and described the kind of person Jesus was.

Friends, family and community members gathered in remembrance of the 17-year-old Riverside High School student.

“Every person who knew him, I haven’t heard a single friend who said anything negative about (Jesus),” Evelin Huerta said tearfully.

But an evening intended to honor the memory of the teen who died from a gunshot wound in a Durham police car once again resulted in arrests of protesters. Police said marchers blocked streets and vandalized cars. A leader of the separately organized demonstration said he didn’t know why some marchers were arrested.

“Marchers caused damage to the Durham Police Department’s District 5 substation and several police vehicles,” police said Sunday night in a press release. “Graffiti was sprayed at several locations along the march route. No one was injured.”

Durham Police and the State Bureau of Investigation have concluded that Jesus Huerta shot himself Nov. 19 in the back of a police car in the parking lot of police headquarters.

The Riverside High School student had been arrested on an outstanding trespassing charge when his family called emergency services for help finding him. A caller to 911 said family members were worried because Huerta had once tried to commit suicide.

‘My brother is not here’

At the church service, some in the crowd cried while others kept their heads low.

Evelin Huerta pleaded with the crowd to let his memory rest in peace.

“I beg you,” she said. “My brother is not here to speak for himself.”

Police Chief Jose Lopez was in attendance but declined comment. Also at the service were City Councilmen Eddie Davis and Steve Schewel, and state Sen. Mike Woodard.

“Whatever the facts of the shooting is, this family lost a son and a brother, and we need to show some support for them,” Woodard said.

Before the church service, community activist Rafael Estrada led more than 100 people from the church on Chapel Hill Boulevard to City Hall. In at least the third public action to call attention to Huerta’s death, supporters played drums and carried signs saying “Justice for Chuy,” Huerta’s nickname.

“Riot gear police dispersed us, and we don’t know why anybody got arrested,” Estrada said after the nearly two-hour service ended.

According to police, Durham officers “covertly” watched marchers, saying they were blocking downtown streets.

“Many of the marchers donned masks as they approached the District 5 substation on Rigsbee Avenue,” the statement said.

“Once at the station, some within the crowd threw rocks shattering the windows of the substation and a patrol vehicle. Several patrol vehicles were also spray painted.”

Four adults were arrested on charges of unauthorized entry and assembly in a city-owned parking facility and “resist, delay and obstruct charges,” police said. Two juveniles were charged.

Family wants own probe

The initial news of Huerta’s death was followed by demonstrations and outrage from many Durham residents, with some accusing the department of racial profiling. Some marches turned violent.

While maintaining that Huerta shot himself, police have conceded that Huerta was not searched well and said they are still investigating possible policy violations by the arresting officer in the case.

The family and their attorney, Alex Charns, have said that they will do their own investigation.

“As a brother we have lost a saint,” Evelin Huerta said. “(Jesus) was a shining star.”

“Please tell us who is going to give back the joy back he brought us?”

Alexander: 919-932-2008 Twitter:@jonmalexander

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