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Jesus Huerta's family questions SBI investigation into teen's death

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Durham District Attorney Leon Stanback says no charges will be filed in the Jesus Huerta case. Durham District Attorney Leon Stanback says no charges will be filed in the Jesus Huerta case.
Jesus Huerta died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound while handcuffed in the backseat of a police cruiser. Jesus Huerta died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound while handcuffed in the backseat of a police cruiser.
DURHAM, N.C. -

Durham District Attorney Leon Stanback said Tuesday that no charges will be filed in the case involving the death of 17-year-old Jesus Huerta.

Stanback said his office has examined the State Bureau of Investigation report and has completed its investigation into the death of 17-year-old Huerta.

"We did not find any criminal probable cause to charge anyone," Stanback said.

In a statement, Stanback said his office reviewed "the complete State Bureau of Investigation file, the Chief Medical Examiner's report, relevant North Carolina State Crime Laboratory reports, physical evidence and forensic photographs" prior to making a decision.

The attorney for Huerta's family, Alex Charns, acknowledged that the decision to "charge another human being with a crime is a weighty one" and said the family did not have a comment on Stanback's decision.

However Charns said the family does question the SBI's investigation.

"We do have a comment on who the SBI talked to, who they failed to talk to and who they have historically served," Charns said. "We do know that despite an SBI promise to the Huerta family to consult with them about what they might contribute before finishing its report, the SBI did not do so."

"The DA's office did answer questions along the way," Charns said. "The SBI, on the other hand, failed to return a phone call about the investigation."

He asked, "Would an SBI agent fail to return the phone call from the chief of police? Would an agent fail to ask the chief if he had anything to add to the report?"

Stanback said the SBI's entire report will not be released publicly, but Huerta's family is expected to receive a copy Tuesday afternoon.

Charns said the family is conducting its own investigation into Huerta's death as "is often the case in civil liberties and civil rights matters, particularly involving the police."

"Years often go by before the truth is uncovered," Charns said.

Durham City Manager Tom Bonfield said he wants Durham police to release their internal investigation quickly.

"I am calling on the Police Department to complete its Internal Affairs Report as quickly as possible, and will continue to correspond with City Council to determine what aspects of the IA Report should be made public to maintain confidence and trust in the Police Department," Bonfield said. 

According to the medical examiner's office, Huerta died in the back seat of a police car from a gunshot wound to the mouth. The autopsy also revealed that the teen had a hole in his jacket in the right front chest region.

Durham Police said Huerta was patted down and the car he was in had been checked before he was shot in the back of a police car.

The case has been an emotional one in Durham, with the Huerta family saying Durham Police failed to monitor Huerta properly while he was in the police car and that his death was unnecessary.

Durham Police have said they followed proper procedures in the case.

What has not been determined is how Huerta had a gun after being handcuffed and frisked.

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I am calling on the Police Department to complete its Internal Affairs Report as quickly as possible, and will continue to correspond with City Council to determine what aspects of the IA Report should be made public to maintain confidence and trust in the Police Department.

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