Law enforcement officials in Durham, North Carolina faced scrutiny last November over the death of a 17-year-old suspect that died while in custody in the back of a police car. The suspect, Jesus Heurta, suffered a fatal gunshot wound to his head even though he was handcuffed while seated in the back seat of a Durham Police vehicle, according to the USA Today.
In a new statement from the police department, the authorities claim that they had found stolen electronics in Huerta’s backpack. The allegedly stolen contents of his bag had nothing to do with the teen's arrest, however, as he was initially apprehended for trespassing after his family had warned police that he had left the home following an argument. Police now claim to have obtained warrants calling for Heurta’s arrest for a string of burglaries around the time of his arrest, which they have only recently released.
Despite the unusual circumstances of Huerta’s death, police officials maintain that no officer fired a weapon in the car. They claim that Huerta somehow shot himself, although evidence as to how that might have happened is still unclear.
According to ABC Local, the arresting officer had pulled into the station parking lot around 2:30 am when he heard a loud noise from the back of his car. The officer jumped out of the moving car, which rolled into other parked vehicles in the lot. Heurta was subsequently found dead.
Huerta’s family is pushing against the claims of the local law enforcement agency, and their attorney Alex Charms questions why the police took so long to release the warrants for Heurta’s arrest in connection to the burglaries.
“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? Why was this released today?” Charms asked.
Durham Mayor Bill Bell and the city of Durham claimed that they are planning on releasing further details of the report soon.