Updated 10:18 AM EST, Mon, Dec 06, 2021

Vigil for Jesus Huerta, Teen Who Died in Police Custody, Erupts into Violence in Durham, NC

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The family of 17-year-old Jesus Huerta, known as "Chuy" by his family and friends in Durham, NC, are still looking for answers surrounding his death, but they didn't find them on Thursday night when a vigil erupted into violence between protesters and the police.

Huerta died on Nov. 19 after being arrested on a trespassing charge. He was being transported in the back of a police car with his hands cuffed behind his back when police say he shot himself in the head. Officers say it was not a police weapon that was used, and though he was searched before being placed in the car the weapon was not found on him at the time.

"I know that it is hard for people not in law enforcement to understand how someone could be capable of shooting themselves while handcuffed behind the back," Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez said to CBS shortly after the incident. "While incidents like this are not common, they unfortunately have happened in other jurisdictions in the past."

On Thursday night, family members and protesters planned a vigil for Huerta, the second one held since his death. Police became aware that the protest was going to be held and say that they attempted to contact the organizer but were unsuccessful.

"While we obtained a telephone number for Rafael Estrada Maya, he declined to speak about the event and hung up," said Deputy Chief Larry Smith to WNCN.

Despite not having a permit and the inability to coordinate with the organizer, the police say they allowed the event to continue, warning participants to stay on public property and remain peaceful. The police then said that the protesters began throwing rocks and bottles at the police who then broke up the crowd, arresting at least six protesters in the process.

"The actions of the Durham Police Department, led by Chief Lopez, last night were a tried-and-true tactic to intimidate and spread fear in our community," Evelin Huerta, sister of the deceased teen, told CNN. "We call on Chief Lopez to resign immediately in light of his leadership that put dozens of armed police on the streets to scare residents and turned a memorial vigil into a war zone last night. We will not be intimidated by Chief Lopez and the Durham Police Department's tactics."

Chief Lopez said his officers acted professionally during the incident.

The Huerta family is calling for a federal investigation and demanding that the police department release all information pertinent to the case.

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