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DURHAM: Mayor Bill B pushes for answers in death of Jesus Huerta - Greenville, NC | News | Weather | Sports - WNCT.com

Durham mayor pushes for answers in death of Jesus Huerta

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Durham Mayor Bill Bell received an email on behalf of the chairman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights asking to set up a meeting about the death of Jesus Huerta. Durham Mayor Bill Bell received an email on behalf of the chairman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights asking to set up a meeting about the death of Jesus Huerta.
DURHAM, N.C. -

Frustration over a teen who died while in Durham Police custody has quickly spread, and now the federal Civil Rights Commission could get involved.

Last week, Durham Mayor Bill Bell received an email on behalf of the chairman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights asking to set up a meeting about the death of Jesus Huerta.

Durham Police say Huerta shot himself while handcuffed in a patrol car after being picked up Nov. 19 on an outstanding second-degree trespassing charge.

"I'm open to having this conversation," Bell said Monday. "Whether it needs to happen, I can't speak on that, that's too general a question."

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights said the chairman was acting in his own personal capacity when he sent the Bell the email and not on behalf of the commission as a whole. The commission the issue has not been broached and it's that group that has to vote to start any inquiries or investigations.

Bell said a meeting with the chairman has not been scheduled and his proposed trip to Durham was postponed.

Bell said information about the Huerta case could be available next week. Still, the email is just the latest demand for answers in the death of Huerta.

Two rallies have been held for the teen, one of which was broken up by police in full riot gear using tear gas outside police headquarters. This has led to some calling for Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez's resignation or firing.

But Bell said Lopez work for the city manager, not for city council, and the manager says Lopez's status is a personnel issue.

Bell said all he can do is push for answers, which he said he's done with the State Bureau of Investigation, attorney general and Durham Police.

"If they can't release information because they're waiting on the SBI, they're waiting on the chief medical examiner, waiting on whomever, all they need to do is tell us that. We can understand that," Bell said. "But, not to say anything, especially when you've announced that you're doing an investigation, that's unacceptable."

Lopez has been with the city since September 2007 and makes $143,544.04 a year.

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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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