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.

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