Police Use Tear Gas at Vigil for Dead Teen

A teen’s death that occurred during police custody has sparked a tense standoff between residents and authorities in Durham, North Carolina.

Jesus Huerta, 17, died of what police say was a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Nov. 19. According to authorities, Huerta shot himself in the head while he sat in the back of a patrol car with his hands handcuffed behind his back.

But many local residents don’t believe that’s the whole story. They have held protests to demand answers from the Durham police surrounding the circumstances of Huerta’s death.

On Thursday, a vigil for Huerta turned ugly. Police broke up the 200-person demonstration with tear gas and riot gear, a confrontation that some residents say was unnecessary.

“What is the Durham police chief afraid of?” a lawyer for Huerta’s family said in a statement. “Why would he send riot police out against a grieving mother holding a flower and candle for her dead son?

Durham Mayor Bill Bell called for transparency in the Huerta shooting, as well as two other police shootings in recent months.

Bell said police should release information about the shootings now, instead of waiting for the results of a state-led investigation.

“Let them get it out, and let us know what the issues are,” he said. “They owe it to us, and they owe it to the public to do that.”