Durham police say teen had gunshot residue on hands

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Jesus Huerta

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) — Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez said Friday that a 17-year-old who died in the back of a police car in November had gunshot residue on his gloves.

Police said Jesus Huerta was arrested November 19 on a second-degree trespassing charge. He was placed in the back of a patrol car and taken to police headquarters.

As the car pulled into the parking lot around 2:30 a.m., the officer driving reported hearing a loud bang and he jumped out of the moving car, which then rolled into parked vehicles.

Police said Huerta shot himself in the head and the gun did not belong to a police officer. Chief Lopez said Friday an SBI gunshot residue test performed on Huerta’s gloves after his death shows he fired a gun.

A similar test on the hands of the officer who was driving the car showed he had not recently fired a gun.

Where the weapon came from is still under investigation by the SBI. Police department standard procedure calls for prisoners to be searched before they’re placed in a vehicle for transport.

At his news conference Friday, Lopez also addressed his department’s response to a vigil held Thursday night by Huerta’s family and roughly 150 – 200 supporters.

The family said the event was intended to be peaceful, but it turned violent as demonstrators faced off with police in riot gear firing tear gas. Six people were arrested.

In a statement issued Friday, the group Presente.org characterized the police response as overly aggressive.

“Durham Police’s use of tear gas and smoke grenades to disperse a peaceful assembly of residents commemorating a teen’s death shows worrisome, coordinated aggression against a community searching for answers,” offered Presente Executive Director Arturo Carmona.

But Chief Lopez told reporters Friday that his officers “used a whole lot of restraint in addressing that situation.”

Lopez said while the Huerta family obviously intended a peaceful candlelight vigil, others in the group clearly came prepared for confrontation. He said they showed up wearing masks, carried backpacks, and were seen gathering rocks.

The protest began at CCB Plaza downtown and then moved to police headquarters. Some carried banners reading “Murdered By Police.” Many in the crowd taunted police officers and screamed obscenities.

The crowd then returned to CCB Plaza, where the scene turned chaotic as police said rocks, bottles, and other projectiles were thrown at them and they ordered protestors to disperse about an hour and a half after the march began.

Tear gas canisters and smoke grenades were launched and riot police started pushing the crowd back while taking several people into custody.

Lopez said Friday that his officers used “best law enforcement practices” to “minimize injury.”

Those arrested included:

  • Andy Guadalupe Mendoza, 18, of Berkeley Street – Failure to disperse on command and resisting
  • Gustavo Pascual Gutierrez, 22, of Angier Avenue  one count of trespassing (DPD HQ)
  • Benjamin Colt Markgraft, 20, of Rougemont Road  carrying a concealed weapon (switchblade), disorderly conduct and impeding traffic
  • Vianey Fuentes, 17, of Great Bend Drive – Failure to disperse on command and resisting
  • Perla Eliza Fuentes, 16, of Tremont Drive – Failure to disperse on command and resisting
  • 15-year-old juvenile female

A similar protest last month ended with broken windows and a damaged police car at Durham Police Headquarters.

Lopez did not give an estimate on when the SBI investigation into Huerta’s death might be complete. The family and its supporters are calling for a federal probe of the incident.

Huerta’s family members say they plan to hold a protest every month on the 19th.

Source: WTVD

5 comments

  • Chucky1992

    If the protesters had kept it orderly then the gas wouldn’t have been necessary. I think the Huerta family is risking charges themselves if they continue to “protest” knowing that it is turning into a riot situation.

  • kayla

    How in the world did he have a gun in the back of a police car to begin with? When being arrested the police officer searches you to make sure you have no weapons or illegal substances. Not only

  • Silvia

    I also heard on NPR that he had his hands handcuffed behind his BACK. How can anyone could reach for a gun left on the floor of a police car and manage to shot himself in the head…?!?!? Thank you for investigating

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