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SBI says it spoke with family during Huerta investigation

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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. -

The State Bureau of Investigation says it spoke with members of Jesus Huerta's family despite claims from their attorney that the SBI did not consult with them prior to finishing the report on his death.

During the course of their investigation into Huerta's death in the backseat of a Durham Police cruise, SBI agents met with family members in person and spoke with them by telephone on a number of occasions, the SBI said Wednesday.

"At the initial meeting with the Huerta family, agents explained that the SBI's role in the case was to gather evidence to help determine whether or not Officer Samuel Duncan was criminally liable for Mr. Huerta's death and that the investigation would be turned over to the District Attorney who would decide whether criminal charges were warranted," SBI said in a statement.

The SBI's statement conflicts with what the attorney for Huerta's family said Tuesday when they questioned "who the SBI talked to, who they failed to talk to and who they have historically served."

"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," attorney Alex Charns said.

Charns said Durham County District Attorney Leon Stanback answered the family's question over the course of the investigation, but the SBI "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?"

Charns said the family intends to take advantage of the SBI's offer for agents to meet with them because they plan to "ask the SBI to follow-up."

"It is an investigative avenue that we want pursued," Charns said Wednesday. "We look forward to working with the SBI in furtherance of this additional investigation."

Stanback said Tuesday that no charges will be filed in the case involving the 17-year-old's death. Stanback said his office had examined the State Bureau of Investigation report and has completed its investigation into the death of 17-year-old Huerta.

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.

Stanback said the SBI's entire report will not be released publicly, but Huerta's family is expected to receive a copy. As of Wednesday at 11 a.m., the Huerta's family had not received a copy of the report.

"It has not been determined what 'access' -- the term used during the press conference yesterday -- we will have," Charns said.

Huerta died Nov. 19, 2013, from a gunshot wound through the mouth, the North Carolina Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said last week. Police say Huerta was handcuffed in the backseat of Duncan's police cruiser when he shot himself.

Durham Police said Duncan patted down Huerta and checked the police cruiser when his shift began.

The SBI said its reports are records of criminal investigations and are not public under state law.

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