On Nov. 19 Jesus Huerta was killed by a ‘close range’ gunshot wound through his mouth and out the back of his head while in the back seat of a cop car, hands cuffed behind his back. The Top Cop said it was suicide; you can read more here.
The family has a few questions, naturally. From nbcnews.com:
‘The attorney for Huerta’s family, Alex Charns, acknowledged that the decision to “charge another human being with a crime is a weighty one” and said the family did not have a comment on Stanback’s decision.
However Charns said the family does question the SBI’s investigation.
“We do have a comment on who the SBI talked to, who they failed to talk to and who they have historically served,” Charns said. “We do know that despite an SBI promise to the Huerta family to consult with them about what they might contribute before finishing its report, the SBI did not do so.”
“The DA’s office did answer questions along the way,” Charns said. “The SBI, on the other hand, failed to return a phone call about the investigation.”
He asked, “Would an SBI agent fail to return the phone call from the chief of police? Would an agent fail to ask the chief if he had anything to add to the report?”
Stanback said the SBI’s entire report will not be released publicly, but Huerta’s family is expected to receive a copy Tuesday afternoon.
Charns said the family is conducting its own investigation into Huerta’s death as “is often the case in civil liberties and civil rights matters, particularly involving the police.”
“Years often go by before the truth is uncovered,” Charns said.
Over the past few days I’d been poking around for news on the case, and had found that it had taken some strange turns as far as I was concerned.
Officer Duncan, in whose ‘custody’ Huerta was in, finally got some press, and said that he and a fellow officer had frisked the young man, and that the patrol car had been well-searched before it had gone out on the call that ended in Huerta’s death.
‘Huerta was wearing white baseball-style gloves on his hands. He was allowed to keep them on.
‘While Huerta was in the backseat of the car, he was seen to be moving his hands from behind his back to a position behind his knees. Huerta was temporarily taken out of the car and told to reposition his hands.
Officer Duncan next headed to Durham Police Headquarters to pick up the warrant for Huerta’s arrest. Clayton said it is a distance of about a mile and would have taken about three minutes. Clayton said an in-car camera system in Duncan’s car had stopped recording while the car was stopped and Duncan did not log back into the system when he began driving – which would have switched it on again.
During the drive, Duncan said he could hear metal scrabbling against the hard plastic of the seat and assumed Huerta was trying to possibly get rid of drugs he might be carrying. Duncan said he planned to search Huerta again when he arrived.
As Duncan’s car pulled into the parking lot around 2:30 a.m., he reported hearing a loud bang and he jumped out of the moving car, which then rolled into parked vehicles.’
That clinched it, apparently; ‘metal scrabbling against the plastic’, and ‘he was seen to be moving his hands from behind his back to a position behind his knees’.
Captain Laura Clayton said that ‘the weapon was traced by the ATF to a pawn shop in Commerce, Ga. that last reported having it in 1991. There is no record of where it was after that. She said the shop did not comply with federal gun reporting laws.’
At some point during the past week, Huerta’s family began seeming to concede that Jesus had committed suicide, and were livid that neither he nor the cop car hadn’t been more thoroughly searched. Then whether or not the police had been aware that Huerta was potenitally suicidal popped up. On day of his death, Huerta’s mother had asked her daughter to call and report him as a runaway, and she did say that he’d attempted suicide once before by jumping out of his bedroom window. She later walked that back, according to coverage of the case. The police denied knowing anything about his ‘fragile mental condition’. But it became such an issue that a couple news organizations began showing that the police chatter belied that claim (the link includes the relevant recordings). It was explained away by the police.
In another questionable development on Jan. 7, long after initial reports from the police said that officers had ‘discovered’ an outstanding warrant for Huerta for second degree trepassing and were taking him to headquarters, comes this ‘news’ from WNCN:
‘A teen who died while in police custody had stolen property in his backpack when he was arrested by Durham Police on Nov. 19, according to search warrants released Tuesday.
The warrants show 17-year-old Jesus Huerta had a backpack with items that were “confirmed stolen out of Durham in early November of 2013, prior to the death of Huerta.”
Durham Police said the items were believed to be related to a break-in at Haverford Street on Nov. 14, near where Huerta lived.
In a statement from their attorney, the Huerta family questioned why the warrants were released nearly two months after the teen’s death.
“If the police believed any of this, wouldn’t it give them a good reason to properly search and secure a teen whose family called the police asking for help? Why wasn’t this search warrant served on the family?,” the statement read.’
Well, yes: WHY, Durham Police? Some of us might even wonder if you made it all up, eh?
Yeah, the department will handle any of it as a personnel issue, and decide if anyone should get a hand slap for not following safety procedures, yada, yada. Justice Served for Police, not Jesus Huerta, his family, friends or any of the rest of us. I can’t think of anything else to say about this travesty of justice, except that it happens too often to be considered out of the ordinary any longer.
For Jesus, his family, and all of us in pain over all the unnecessary injustices in the world: