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Durham Police Chief: Teen died of gunshot wound to the head

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DURHAM, N.C. -

A Durham teen died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez said Wednesday afternoon at a news conference.

Lopez held a 3 p.m. news conference and started by extending condolences to the family of Jesus Huerta, who died in a police cruiser in November. Huerta was 17.

He said the noise heard by the officer was a gunshot, and said it was a gunshot wound to the head.

Lopez said a handgun was found in the car and that Huerta was still handcuffed from behind. He said the wound was self-inflicted.

"The medical examiner's office has confirmed that Jesus Huerta died from a gunshot wound to his head," Lopez said. "Whether that wound was accidental or intentional is unknown at this time."

Lopez said Huerta was searched, and police are not sure where how he had the weapon.

"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," Lopez said. "While incidents like this are not common, they unfortunately have happened in other jurisdictions in the past."

Huerta's family released a statement following the press conference held by Lopez. The family of Huerta said the press conference did not release any new information to the public.

"How did Jesús 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?" the statement reads.

The family of Huerta also requested all forms of communication "received, sent, possessed or created by any City of Durham employee and/or city official (including but not limited to the police chief, command staff, city manager, police public relations/press staff) that touch upon or concern the detention, arrest, death and all investigations concerning Jesús Huerta."

Lopez said the SBI is continuing their investigation into the incident for any possible criminal violations, which is standard procedure.

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Justin Quesinberry

Justin is a reporter for WNCN and a North Carolina native. He has spent the better part of the last decade covering the news in central North Carolina.  More>>

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