Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez held a press conference this morning to address last night’s clash with protesters following the vigil and march for Jesus Huerta, which marked the one-month anniversary of his death. The teenager died Nov. 19 in the back seat of a police cruiser. According to police he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Lopez also gave an update to the SBI investigation into Huerta's death. He said that lab analysis showed that gunshot residue was left on the gloved hands of Huerta, while no gunshot residue was left on the hands of Officer Samuel Duncan, who was driving the car.
The march started around 7 p.m. at CCB Plaza in downtown Durham last night. Participants marched down West Chapel Hill Street, where they held a vigil near police headquarters. Later, marchers returned to CCB Plaza. According to the police, bottles and rocks were thrown at officers in riot gear. The officers asked the crowd to disperse, then deployed smoke and tear gas. The standoff lasted about an hour.
During the press conference, Lopez said the officers showed restraint and ensured safety. “We used best practices in law enforcement,” he said. One demonstrator suffered a scrape during an arrest, he said. No officers were hurt.
Asked why tear gas was deployed in an area where children were present, Lopez said the use of tear gas offered better protection for children who were in danger from the sharp objects being thrown.
The police made six arrests:
• Andy Guadalupe Mendoza, 18, failure to disperse on command and resisting
• Gustavo Pascual Gutierrez, 22, trespassing (police headquarters)
• Benjamin Colt Markgraft, 20, carrying a concealed weapon (switchblade), disorderly conduct and impeding traffic
• Vianey Fuentes, 17, failure to disperse on command and resisting
• A 15-year-old juvenile female
During the press conference, more than two dozen concerned residents filled the lobby of headquarters. Afterward they expressed frustration for not being permitted to hear Lopez’s comments first-hand. They said they intended to lodge formal complaints.