Something is hitting a fan

Several days after a youth died in DPD custody, a group of people showed up at DPD HQ to protest last night.

And it got ugly.

At least three people were arrested Friday night when a march by people protesting the death of 17-year-old Jesus Huerta while in police custody turned destructive at Durham Police headquarters.

An estimated 150 supporters of the Riverside High School student gathered at CCB Plaza downtown, and the crowd swelled to about 200 as they marched toward police headquarters around 8 p.m.

This follows councilman Moffitt’s comments earlier in the week indicating that he was concerned about the pace of these investigations:

“It’s just that I’m frustrated that we have cases that go back a year that are still in the system,” he said. “We need to be moving forward. That’s all. We need the information, we need the results of the investigations, we need to be able to move forward.”

In the PR biz, you typically want to “get ahead” of bad news before it passes a threshold of public awareness. You know – confront it head on, control the messaging around it. That’s because 1) the truth usually will come out regardless, 2) until it does, people are free to let their imaginations run wild assuming the worst, and 3) it tends to make the problem “go away” faster than having it linger in limbo for ages as people are left to speculate.

Earlier this week I expected that Lopez might keep mum until the SBI investigation was complete. Now? I don’t think so. He has to fall on his sword get control of the situation before things get worse.

If he doesn’t do something soon, there’s going to be more than just his job at stake. This could get really bad.

EDIT: to clarify, I didn’t mean to claim that resignation is the right play for Lopez; I just think he has to do something very visible very soon to take responsibility (whatever it means in this context; we still don’t know) for what happened. The “not willing to interfere with SBI investigation” line is not going to be adequate if things escalate (even though the Council has his back on it for now at least).

Protests up to now had all remained civil. The “outside agitators” (as the H-S described them) who showed up on Saturday are ready to up the ante, and there’s now a serious risk that they’ll turn the legitimate concern from citizens about the DPD’s actions into an excuse for violence. Lopez can’t allow that to happen.

Teenager dead in DPD custody after being reported as a runaway by his family

You’ve probably heard something about this story, in which a 17 year old man named Jesus Huerta died of an apparent gunshot wound to the head while in the back of a DPD cruiser earlier this week. This is the latest in a string of deadly interactions between suspects and the DPD, and the police department was already under pressure from some citizens for how it handled cases earlier this year.

WRAL is reporting additional details as of yesterday. They spoke with the family of the teenager and retrieved 911 records, which suggest that the family themselves had called the cops on Huerta because they were concerned that he might take his own life:

Huerta’s mother, Sylvia Fernandez, said Wednesday that her son ran away from the family apartment on Washington Street, and she wanted police to help. Fernandez, who doesn’t speak English, asked her daughter to call police.

In a recording of the 911 call, the sister told the call-taker they were worried because the teen was using drugs and once tried to take his own life. But the family said Wednesday Huerta never tried to kill himself.

An officer arrived about 10 minutes later, Fernandez said, and another officer radioed to say the teen was picked up about two blocks away from the home.

The DPD is being essentially silent about this case, confirming only the most basic facts and revealing nothing else. The officer involved is on paid leave (which is standard operating procedure for events like this) and the SBI has been called in to investigate.

It’s too early for the public to know with any certainty what happened here, but it’s difficult to avoid speculating that the LEO might have done something wrong. The 911 operator was apparently told that Huerta was a suicide risk in the past. Did the operator relay that to the LEO? Did the teen somehow manage to shoot himself in DPD custody? If so, how did he get a weapon? Did he have it with him when he was picked up? Was he thoroughly searched at that time? Was he cuffed?

I think the DPD’s silence is telling, and I imagine we won’t really know what happened until the SBI gets done with their investigation. WRAL and the other local outlets can mine publicly available information in the interim, but that will only reveal part of the picture.

One thing’s for sure though: Lopez is not having a good year.

Pizzeria Toro to reopen “by the new year,” staff plans to host Cookery event in the interim

Immediately following the fire a couple of weeks ago, the only real news coming from Pizzeria Toro was a tweet stating that they’d be closed for “a bit.” Today they broke radio silence with an official statement to the H-S:

“We’re basically waiting for the inspection process to play out, which has to happen before they … allow work on the building,” Brooks said. “We’re hoping to be open by the New Year,” he added.

It’s a bummer that they’re out of commission for so long, but the good news is that they’re planning a (cleverly named) “Toro Dreams of Spaghetti” event with the Cookery in the interim. Proceeds from the event will go to the PORCH Durham nonprofit.

Toro wasn’t the only business hit by the Nov 4 fire, either. The Cupcake Bar and Bullseye Bicycle (aside – we went from having one bike shop in the area to having like a dozen, I HAVEN’T EVEN CHECKED THEM ALL OUT MAYBE I NEED MORE BIKES SO I HAVE A REASON TO!?!)  also shut down immediately following the fire, but both businesses are back up and running now.

EDIT:

I’m going to the 8:30 seating of “Toro Dreams of Spaghetti.” Come say hi!*

* Sorry, no autographs

Final food truck rodeo of 2013 is in like 30 minutes; Old North Durham park re-opens

I just rode around town aimlessly for a bit, and remembered two important things while doing so!

First, 2013’s final food truck rodeo is setting up presently, and is slated to run from 12:30 to 16:30 today. The forecast is kind of iffy on the rain front, but the temperatures are nice and warm. There are heckuva lot of trucks out here (yeah, sorry, crappy cell phone pic included):

IMG_20131117_115941

And next up, the Old North Durham park is re-open for business. They’ve resodded the field and redone the drainage system, and it looks really nice. As if you needed another reason to hang out around Foster and Geer!

Durham news odds and ends oh-my-god-it’s-been-almost-a-whole-month edition

So, I’ve got news! I guess I forgot that this is a thing I do? Join me for a trip through the way back machine, as I look at headlines dating back to mid October…

Official election winners: Bell, Moffitt, Davis, Cole-McFadden

The results are official now, and several outlets are reporting:

Results:

  • Davis 65.1% over Beasley 34.7%
  • Bell 86.5% over Williams 13.1%
  • Moffit 56.6% over Karriker 43.2%
  • Cole-Mcfadden 98.3%

Observations:

  • Beasley and Karriker both received financial support from a Realtor-related superPAC, but lost anyway
  • The Durham People’s Alliance endorsements carried the day.
  • The Committee and Friends struck out in the contested races. They wisely backed Bell and Cole-McFadden (who were obviously going to win anyway).
  • The Friends are the closest things to “conservatives” in the local Durham political scene; the very low Republican turnout probably didn’t do any favors for their picks of Karriker and Beasley.
  • I found the relatively tight race between Moffitt and Karriker somewhat surprising. Moffitt’s “incumbent” status was perhaps less beneficial since he had been appointed to the council to fill Woodard’s empty seat rather than elected.
  • Davis represents the potential disruption in the balance of power here. In recent years Clement had been mostly inactive, often only attending when Bell needed an extra vote. Davis will presumably be more engaged, and Bell may not be able to count on having that extra vote now.

Eddie Davis Eyes:

Early election results show Davis, Moffitt leading

With 90% of precincts reporting, we’ve got a large enough sample to make some informed guesses about the winners. Bell was up by some 75 points last I checked, so that one’s certainly in the bag.

Cole-Mcfadden was also beating “Write In” by about 97 points. Better luck next time, Mr. In.

Davis was up by about 30 points over Beasley and looks poised to take Clement’s seat.

The race to watch has been Moffitt v Karriker, which has been the tightest. Moffitt is up by about 15 points now, which should be enough to guarantee the win.

I’ll post details when the official tally is in tomorrow.

Pizzeria Toro and neighboring apartments damaged in fire

WRAL reports:

Investigators are trying to determine what sparked the blaze about 1:30 a.m. at the building on East Chapel Hill Street. Durham Fire Department authorities said the flames likely started in the duct of Pizzeria Toro and spread.

Details are scarce – hopefully the damage isn’t too severe. Pizzeria Toro posted the following tweet at 5 a.m.:

looks like we’re going to be closed for a bit.

UPDATE: The Durham News Dot Com chimes in:

A fire early Monday damaged a two-story downtown Durham building that houses Pizzeria Toro, The Cupcake Bar and apartments.

Sounds like The Cupcake Bar wasn’t hit as hard, based on this tweet:

Hello Friends. There was a fire in the building last night. The bakery’s okay, but we’ll be closed today. We’ll update you when we know more

MORE UPDATE: the Herald-Sun published a story with additional details. The bike shop there was also shut down. They state that the fire started in the exhaust ductwork near the oven.

EVEN MORE UPDATE: Pizzeria Toro hopes to reopen “by the New Year.”

Fancy some early voting? You have until 1:00 p.m. this afternoon.

Just a quick note on the election: the downtown early voting location near the DAP is only open for a few more hours. Once it closes, your only voting option will be at your designated polling place on Tuesday (election day).

As the H-S reports, turnout is especially low thus far, with only 1,955 votes cast. With such low turnout every vote can really count, so you might want to actually show up and do your civic duty by supporting your favorite candidate. This is doubly true for Republicans; based on early voting data, they represented barely 5% of the vote tally.

As a reminder, here are the endorsements:

Group Mayor Ward 1 Ward 2 Ward 3
Durham People’s Alliance Bell Cole-McFadden Davis Moffitt
Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People Bell Cole-McFadden Beasley Karriker
Friends of Durham Bell Cole-McFadden Beasley Karriker
Indy Week Bell Davis Moffitt