Family of Durham teen unsure how he died in police custody

Family of Durham teen unsure how he died in police custody

Posted: Updated:
DURHAM, N.C. -

The family of a 17-year-old Durham boy who died in police custody Tuesday said they have not heard how the teen died, despite previous reports that he suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez said Jesus Huerta, a student at Riverside High School, was in the custody of Officer Samuel Duncan when he died Tuesday.

Lopez said Duncan was transporting Huerta to police headquarters to pick up a warrant charging the teen with second-degree trespassing. When Duncan arrived at police headquarters, he heard a loud noise in the car and Duncan jumped from the vehicle.

The patrol car then rolled and crashed into a van in the parking lot. Lopez said that it did not appear that any officer fired a weapon during the incident.

During a press conference Wednesday, Huerta's mother, Sylvia Fernandez, said the teen ran away from home, so the family called police to help locate him.

She said police picked her son up about a block from the home. She said the family feels bad that a call they initiated somehow led to a series of events that caused Huerta's death.

"Next time she is going to doubt picking up the phone and calling a policeman," Huerta's sister, Evelin Huert, said on behalf of her mother.

Evelin Huerta previously said that police told the family that her brother had a self-inflicted gunshot wound. However she clarified that the family has not heard of a cause of death, only that a gun was involved.

"There was a gun involved and my brother was deceased. That's the only thing that they've said so far," Evelin Huerta said.

Jesus' sister-in-law, Jamie Huerta, said the family has many questions, but they don't feel they are being properly answered by police. She said the family is unsure how he would have gotten a gun in the first place.

"It was their place to search him," Jamie Huerta said. "All they had to do was search him and we wouldn't be here today."

She added, "I don't know if he had the gun or if the gun was in the backseat already. All I know is there was a gun there. We had no knowledge that he even owned a gun or had one. We just don't know what happened."

Duncan has been placed on administrative leave with pay, which is standard procedure.

Huerta has faced charges before including possession of a burglary tool, resisting a public officer and trespassing on Feb. 16. He was charged with second trespassing on Nov. 12, 2012 and then possession of marijuana with intent to sell in Oct. 2012.

All of those charges were dismissed.

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