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911 Call From The Death of Jesus Huerta While in Police Custody 

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Old 12-12-2013, 02:15 AM
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911 Call From The Death of Jesus Huerta While in Police Custody

The frantic call came in about 2:55 a.m. on Tuesday morning. The 911 operator asked the caller’s location.
“Parking lot,” the man answered. “I’m in the parking lot…headquarters.”

At this point, the caller said something that seems somewhat muddled in the audio of the recording – either “three shots fired” or “believe shots fired.”

“10-4, are you hurt?” the operator asked.

“Don’t believe so,” the man replied.

Moments later, the caller said, “Request EMS for a gunshot wound. Approximately 18-year-old male, not breathing.”
That, according to the 911 recording released by the Durham City/County Emergency Communications Department, is how paramedics were called to the scene outside Durham Police Headquarters on West Chapel Hill Street. They found Jésus Huerta, 17, fatally wounded.

On Thursday, it remained unclear precisely how Huerta died that morning in the back of Officer Samuel Duncan’s patrol car.

Police Chief Jose Lopez Sr. told reporters on Tuesday that however Huerta died, it wasn’t because of a gun fired by a police officer.

It’s not clear whether the Riverside High student had access to a weapon – police haven’t implied that he did, but it’s also not publicly known whether he had been properly searched or restrained with handcuffs behind the back as required by department policy.

Cause of death was pending an autopsy by the state medical examiner’s office.

Duncan had picked up Huerta and taken him to headquarters to get a warrant for second-degree trespassing that had been issued for the teen.

As the officer pulled the car into the parking lot, Lopez said, Duncan heard a loud noise and jumped from the moving vehicle. The car rolled into a nearby van.

The incident is still under active investigation by the department’s professional standards division, homicide detectives and the State Bureau of Investigation.

Huerta’s case, as well as the police shootings earlier this year of Derek Deandre Walker and Jose Adan Cruz Ocampo, remain open investigations by the SBI. Officials wouldn’t indicate how soon they might be resolved.

“We generally don’t speculate on how long an investigation may take because each [case] is different,” said Jennifer Canada, SBI spokeswoman.

Duncan remains on administrative leave with pay.

Here is some updated information as of 06/2014

Police investigators have concluded an arresting officer violated two police policies the night teenager Jesus Huerta died in custody Nov. 19.

Officer Samuel Duncan was suspended without pay for 40 hours and required to take remedial training in the handling and transporting of prisoners, according to a final summary of investigations into Huerta’s death and those of two men fatally shot by Durham police officers in 2013.

Police Chief Jose L. Lopez sent the summary report to City Manager Tom Bonfield on Monday morning.

Bonfield said he had been aware of most of its contents and forwarded copies to City Council members and Mayor Bill Bell.

According to the report, investigators determined that officers Ronald Mbuthia and Robert Swartz acted appropriately in the deaths of Jose Ocampo on July 27 and Derek Walker on Sept. 17.

Because the summaries include personnel information, City Council approval was required for their public release, he said. The council approved releasing only the summary, Bonfield said, and kept the full reports confidential.

The summary provided some new details on the cases, including policy changes made in response to Huerta’s death.

After receiving reports from the State Bureau of Investigation, District Attorney Leon Stanback concluded there were no grounds for criminal action against any of the officers. A district attorney has the authority to make SBI reports public, but Stanback has not done so for any of the 2013 deaths.

All three cases raised immediate public controversy, the most over Huerta. Police concluded that the Riverside High School student shot himself while handcuffed in the back of Duncan’s patrol car.

Huerta’s arrest, on an outstanding trespassing warrant, and death led to three street protests, including one in which police dispersed demonstrators with tear gas.

According to Lopez’s report, police tests found gunshot residue on gloves that Huerta was wearing at the time, but found none on Duncan’s hands.

Huerta family attorney Alex Charns issued a statement on the family’s behalf Monday, saying that its own investigation “is ongoing.”

“We are prohibited by court order from discussing what we may know about what is contained in the SBI investigation file,” the statement said. “We believe the DPD can better protect and serve all our citizens by learning from the errors that the DPD admits were made here and those already found in the public record.”

Police had previously said that Duncan failed to find a gun when he searched Huerta and violated police policy by failing after the arrest to restart an in-car video camera that had automatically powered off, and would have recorded the shooting.

In response to Huerta’s death, Lopez said, police have updated in-car video systems to prevent an officer’s failure to turn them on and required all officers to undergo a two-hour update class on suspect searches.

The Durham Human Relations Commission had recommended that police keep in-car videos running at all times, in the report of its six-month investigation into alleged racial profiling and other racist behavior by Durham officers delivered to the City Council in May.

During the investigation, the commission also heard public complaints about police actions in the Huerta, Ocampo and Walker deaths.

That report was delivered to Mayor Bell in May. Bonfield is conducting his own research for a city administration response to the commission report, which he expects to deliver to the City Council in August.

Citizens and elected officials also criticized police for being slow to release information while the Huerta, Ocampo and Walker deaths were under internal and SBI review.

Lopez said Monday that in any future cases of police-involved shooting or death in custody the department will make a report to the city manager within five working days of the incident and will release those reports to news media.

Other officer cleared

Ocampo, a Honduran man suspected in a stabbing, was found to be holding a knife by the handle in a threatening manner when he was shot and killed by police July 27, according to the report.

Durham attorney Scott Holmes, who has closely followed the case, has said some witnesses maintain Ocampo, who spoke little English, was holding the knife handle side out in an attempt to surrender the weapon.

None of the officers on the scene speak Spanish, Lopez told reporters Monday, but a bystander translated their orders for Ocampo to drop the knife.

According to the report, only one witness investigators interviewed said Ocampo held the knife blade, and firefighters who arrived at the scene immediately after shots were fired saw a knife removed from Ocampo’s hand that was held by the handle.

“There is no disputing his hand was not holding the blade,” Lopez said.

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