Community needs answers on shooting death of Jesus Huerta

Before the pressure cooker blows its top:

Durham Mayor Bill Bell has it right in saying that the Durham Police Department should release its internal report on the Nov. 19 death of 17-year-old Jesus “Chuy” Huerta, who was shot in the back seat of a police car.

Police Chief Jose Lopez, who has not handled the fallout from this incident well at all, has left people confused in his piecemeal discussion of the death. Lopez says that Huerta shot himself in the head while his hands were handcuffed behind his back and that gunshot residue was found on a glove the teen was wearing.

So far, we are being forced to accept this narrative: the 17 year-old was taken into custody while still retaining a gun on his person, was handcuffed while his gloves were still on, and then he was able to get his (gloved) hands on said hidden gun, and then shoot himself in the back of the head. An entire series of improbable if not impossible actions. Does the bullet that killed him match the firearm taken into evidence? You don't have to be an LEO to know what a "drop" gun is. Do the gloves fit? Unfortunately, Jesus can't be acquitted if they don't. This is a mess, and one that a blue wall can't contain.


Not Funny.

This, unfortunately, reminds me of a very, very old black humor joke, with the punch line, "It was the worst case of suicide I ever saw."

No, not at all funny. The boy had been arrested for second degree trespass. Think about it. Why would he even reach for a gun, much less conceal it from the cops? All of that is much more serious than trespass.

Cuffed in gloves? I've never been cuffed, do the cops usually show such consideration? Baffling.

How did the cops miss a gun so accessible a gloved, cuffed boy could reach it?

The officers in charge were negligent and/or incompetent in the most charitable interpretation I can imagine, and I will with hold the least charitable until we get some answers. This boy was 17 years old, and he had a family, and he was being taken in the back of a police car cuffed for second degree trespass and is now dead. Disgusting. Horrible. Unthinkable, regarding my own child.

We should all be demanding answers to this.

Third time in the past few months

This is the third time in the past few months that young minorities have been shot while handcuffed and in police custody in the South.

There was the incident in Arkansas in August and another in Texas involving a high school student earlier this month. In all three cases, the young men had been searched for weapons and were in the back of a police cruiser in handcuffs when they apparently got hold of a gun and shot themselves.

Twice, I might chalk it up to coincidence. Three times in four months - I don't buy it.

I think some serious questions need to be raised on whether there's any connection between the officers involved in the three cases. It's not a stretch to ask if they're renegade cops trading ideas on some Internet forums.

More a question of training.

Cops are such delicate flowers. Fragile. And they say they must cuff even non-violent offenders out of concern for the prisoner.

Hogwash. Police training has evolved into heavily armed self-defense postures that result in deaths or injuries to the public. Do you remember Payton Strickland?‎

Or this one of the thousands of people tasered for no discernible reason?‎

This goes beyond rogue police on chatboards, this is the result of current systemic training now universal for cops who have forgotten that the people they live among are often human beings, not dangerous objects to be feared. They have forgotten that compliance can be enforced with means not requiring violence.

Agreed, but ...

Police have transitioned over the past few years from public servants into paramilitary organizations, redefining public safety in terms of military-style control. Not all police departments have fallen into that trap, but some have.

One disturbing trend in recent years are extremist right-wing groups that have popped up. One example is the "Oath Keepers" that was founded in 2009, an ad hoc group of military and local police devoted to preventing a "dictatorship" by Obama and willing to violate the law to do it.

So, again, with this same scenario happening to minority teens in the past four months, I have to ask if there's not some connection between the incidents beyond improper training or general attitudes in a particular police force.