Durham, N.C., police claim that Jesus Huerta, 17, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head while handcuffed, with his hands behind his back, and in the custody of Police Officer Samuel Duncan on Nov. 19.
Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez said at a news conference on Wednesday that Officer Duncan was responding to a call about Huerta being a runaway. Officer Duncan found Huerta and learned the teen had a warrant out for his arrest on a second-degree trespassing charge, reports WRAL.
Jesus Huerta was searched, handcuffed and placed in the back of a police car by Officer Duncan, who claims he later heard a gunshot from the back of his vehicle, notes WNCT (video below).
Chief Lopez said that a handgun was found in the car and that Huerta was still handcuffed from behind, but somehow managed to fatally shoot himself.
"The medical examiner's office has confirmed that Jesus Huerta died from a gunshot wound to his head," stated Chief Lopez. "Whether that wound was accidental or intentional is unknown at this time."
"I know that it is hard for people not in law enforcement to understand how someone could be capable of shooting themselves while handcuffed behind the back," added Chief Lopez. "While incidents like this are not common, they unfortunately have happened in other jurisdictions in the past."
However, Huerta's family has called for a federal investigation of the incident and said in a statement: "How did Jesus end up dead in the parking lot at police headquarters in these circumstances? Searched. Handcuffed behind the back. How is it even possible to shoot oneself?"
Huerta's sister Evelin Huerta told WRAL that her brother did not have a gun and added, "I’m just more frustrated now. In what world does any of this make sense?"
According to Salon.com, young men of color have managed to shoot themselves in the head while in handcuffs in the back of police cars twice in the past six months, seemingly defying "both the laws of physics and the limits of human physiology."