Possum Drop it like it’s hot! For realz this time!

Well, it’s the last day of 2013, and there’s only one way to ring in the new year: dropping a possum!

A Superior Court judge will allow Brasstown’s annual Possum Drop to go ahead despite opposition from animal rights activists.

You may recall that in one of his first acts as governor McCrory signed a bill into law that allowed the return of the Possum Drop, and in one of my first posts as blogger I wrote up an extensive retelling of the saga, which you might (or might not) find amusing. This ruling marks the end of the legal shenanigans from the likes of PETA , and so the beloved hillbilly tradition is back in earnest.

I hope you guys had a good 2013! I thought it was pretty sweet. See ya next year.

Huerta family speaks out, Lopez holds press conference following last night’s confrontation

Multiple news outlets are reporting on this story and its aftermath now. The most notable new development is DPD Chief Lopez’s press conference defending his department’s response last night (via WRAL):

Chief Jose L. Lopez Sr. said Friday that his officers acted appropriately Thursday night when they used force to end what had been billed as a peaceful candlelight vigil by about 200 people protesting the death of 17-year-old Jesus Huerta. Six young people were arrested, including a 15-year-old girl, according to police.

Lopez said Friday that his officers responded with force at Thursday’s vigil only after some in the crowd threw bottles and rocks, with one about the size of a baseball hitting the face shield of an officer’s helmet. No officers were injured.

In addition, he mentioned some new findings from the SBI investigation (via Indy Week):

Lopez also gave an update to the SBI investigation into Huerta’s death. He said that lab analysis showed that gunshot residue was left on the gloved hands of Huerta, while no gunshot residue was left on the hands of Officer Samuel Duncan, who was driving the car.

This of course backs the official position of the DPD which has asserted that Huerta shot himself while in police custody.

TheDurhamNewsDotCom also covered this story, noting that a 15 year old girl was among those arrested for trespassing during the protest.

Huerta’s family issued a very strong and frankly kind of disturbing statement via its attorney:

“What is the Durham police chief afraid of? Why would he send riot police out against a grieving mother holding a flower and candle for her dead son? She was threatened with arrest along with the rest of the family,” the statement said. “He sent troops in battle regalia against people holding Our Lady of Guadalupe candles and signs asking for justice. But he can’t stop prayers with force, and he can’t stop the truth from coming out. In a surprising admission, police headquarters was surrounded by crime scene tape last night.”

This kind of scenario is incredibly dangerous; when protests turn violent, LEOs have to respond somehow, but when they respond in this manner, it reinforces the perception that LEOs are the enemy.

I’ll update this post throughout the day if new information comes to light.

Eric Becoats resigns; DPD uses tear gas at Huerta vigil

Both of these stories are developing, and WRAL has the skinny, first on the Huerta “vigil”:

Although the assembly was billed as a peaceful event, Durham police massed with tear gas masks on their hips outside the HQ before Huerta supporters arrived.

… After about 90 minutes Thursday, police moved to disperse the crowd that had formed, setting off smoke grenades.

So the DPD came expecting trouble, and it looks like they got it.

EDIT: they were apparently using tear gas to disperse the crowd, arresting people who would not leave DPDHQ. And check out this photo from WRAL; the sign the protesters carried reads “JESUS HUERTA MURDERED BY POLICE”:

EDIT MORE: check out WTVD’s frightening images of the riot police surrounded by teargas:

I’m um, no PR expert or anything, but this doesn’t exactly seem to help the DPD’s image. You guys, this isn’t good at all.

EDIT: according to the Indy, Lopez is giving a press conference this morning at 10:30 to respond to the incident.

As for Becoats, you’re not surprised, are you? As of right now the only confirmation I can see is a banner at the top of WRAL’s web site. I’ll update with a real link when I have more deets.

Breaking News:  Eric Becoats announced his resignation Thursday night from the leadership position in the Durham Public Schools.

EDIT: Becoats linkage. I have to hand it to Eric – he sure picked a good time to slip out the back door, cause his resignation story is sure as hell going to be buried under headlines of the DPD running around in riot gear making downtown look like a war zone.

Vigil for Jesus Huerta scheduled for tonight at 7:00 p.m.

WRAL is reporting that community members are planning a vigil for Huerta tonight. Actually, “vigil” may not be the best way to describe this, as it sounds a bit more like another protest march:

The vigil is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m., and those in attendance are expected to march from CCB Plaza to Durham Police Headquarters.

This event follows Chief Lopez’s statement last week which confirmed that Huerta died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head while in police custody, a statement that may have been prompted by a petition which requested the justice department launch an investigation into the DPD’s handling of the case.

WRAL is stating that the DPD is going to be on high alert, restricting access to the police department structure itself and preventing people from donning masks. The DPD also claims it tried to reach out to the rally’s organizer to coordinate the protest, but received no response.

A similar rally a few weeks ago turned violent due to (apparently) “outside agitators.” As with the first protest march, this one is intended by its organizers to be peaceful, but it’s impossible to predict or control who ultimately shows up and what their agendas are.

Durham news odds and ends see-ya-next-year edition

Another month, another much belated Odds and Ends! This is likely to be the last Odds and Ends post of 2013 – but don’t worry, if you’re good little boys and girls it’ll be back again next year (if you’re bad, I guess Krampus will come stuff you in a sack instead). So, um, be good OK?

Chief Lopez states in press conference that Jesus Huerta died of self-inflicted gunshot wound

NB: This story is still developing and I’ll add any details as I get them.

The Durham News Dot Com announced with little notice the the conference was scheduled for three. WRAL announced:

Breaking News:  Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez says Jesus Huerta, a 17-year-old who died in police custody last month, suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

This was an obvious possibility, but still unknown is how he managed to be in posession of the firearm. It’s worth noting that Lopez’s press conference came suspiciously shortly after Huerta’s family took a 18000 person strong petition to the justice department demanding an investigation into the actions of the DPD.

Oh, it’s also unclear to me how releasing this information earlier would have interfered with the ongoing SBI investigation.


At this time, WRAL now has an actual news story on the conference. Not much else was really revealed, beyond the fact that apparently Huerta was cuffed.


Hotel Durham (AKA Holland Hotel) developers present alternate plan for Holland St. alley

As previously discussed, the developers of 315 E. Chapel Hill St. had initially submitted a proposal which would have allowed them to take ownership of a chunk of the alley for use as an outdoor patio. Seven Stars (among others) raised concerns that this would would make the alley somewhat claustrophobic, and in so doing impede public use of the space (which has seen increasing use due to the popularity of neighboring businesses).

Those concerns caused the planning department to slam on the brakes, and they held a public meeting to solicit input from the public. The input was provided to the developers, who stated they would take it into account as they moved forward.

The Hotel has now revised (or at least clarified) its plans and intends to submit them to the council on the 18th:

The results are now in an agreement between the developers and the city that will probably come up for City Council approval Dec. 18. Most involve keeping the alley much as it is already, by preserving the trees already there, keeping the cobblestone pavement, keeping cars out and preserving public space there.

Gentian’s plan incorporates a public “pedestrian use area,” leaves the trees and most of the cobblestones, though it adds a five-foot wide public walkway paved with material easier on the feet than cobblestones. Any stones removed would be used as “design elements” in new construction. The company would also be responsible for maintaining the existing plantings, and may add lighting to the alley that designer Rob Emerson said is now “pitch dark” at night.

On first blush that sounds pretty swell! Caveat: I’ve not seen the actual plan, so I’m taking TheDurhamNews on its word here; I also don’t know whether these plans would be legally binding (in many cases, site plans can be changed at the discretion of the developer). Still, it’s always nice to see a developer listening to public feedback and working to come up with a compromise.