In a controversial case that has stirred the Latino community, police in Durham, N.C., affirmed on Wednesday that a teenager who died while in custody last month shot himself in the head while handcuffed in the back seat of a police car, according to CBS affiliate WNCT.
Durham police chief Jose L. Lopez Jr. held a press conference and announced that the medical examiner’s office had confirmed that Jesus Huerta, 17, had died “from a gunshot wound to his head.” He added, “Whether that wound was accidental or intentional is unknown at this time.”
His family was concerned when the 10th-grader hastily left home after his mother reportedly caught him using drugs on the night of his arrest, according to the Raleigh News & Observer, so they called 911. The police say they learned, after catching up with Huerta just a few blocks from his home, that he had an outstanding warrant from July linked to trespassing charges.
Police later said that the officer who was transporting Huerta after his arrest, a rookie just eight years older than his charge, heard a loud noise from the back seat of the police cruiser when he pulled into the police department parking lot.
Huerta’s family released a response to Lopez’s statements at the conference.