Durham police to review response to march, vigil

Dec. 22, 2013 @ 10:56 PM

The Durham Police Department now is reviewing an incident Thursday night that saw tear gas released into a crowd that had gathered for a march and vigil in remembrance of Jesus Huerta.

In a post on the department’s Facebook page Sunday, Chief Jose Lopez Sr. said that the inquiry would include, but not be limited to, “assessing the tactics used, intelligence gathered, videos, literature collected, feedback and deployment decisions before, during and after the event.”

The decision apparently was prompted by questions raised in the aftermath of the incident.

“We understand that the limited information that has been provided thus far has created questions, concerns and stirred emotions,” the message stated. “Please understand that our decision was not entered into lightly and distressing the communities of Durham was not our intent.”

The chief said that the department will hear from people outside the organization “and will be transparent in communicating the findings.”

Given the holiday period, it’s not clear how soon the review might be finished, but Lopez said the work would be as prompt as possible.

“Although we hope that such an incident does not repeat itself, we will learn from this incident and work to improve our practices wherever possible,” he said.

The march and vigil, which made national headlines on MSNBC.com, erupted in chaos Thursday after some in the crowd of 150 people threw rocks and bottles at officers, allegedly provoking officers to use tear gas in the heart of downtown Durham.

The vigil marked the one-month anniversary of the death of Huerta, a 17-year-old Riverside High School student, in the back of a police patrol car.

Lopez has reported that Huerta died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, either accidentally or intentionally, while cuffed behind his back, using a weapon that somehow escaped notice during a search by Officer Samuel Duncan when he picked up Huerta on a trespassing warrant.

Huerta’s family has asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation to conduct its own inquiry into how the teen died, lacking faith in the local police department to properly do so.


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