Dear Attorney General Eric Holder,
We call on the U.S. Department of Justice to launch a civil rights investigation of the Durham Police Department.
On November 19th, 2013, 17-year-old Jesús Huerta was shot and killed while sitting in the back of a Durham, North Carolina police car. The Durham police concede that Jesús was shot while sitting in the back of the police car, and they also concede that the teenager was handcuffed at the time he was shot. But they say he shot himself. This explanation leaves more questions than answers. Family, friends and community members gathered in downtown Durham for a candle-lit prayer vigil seeking answers in his death were met by police dressed in riot gear, who used tear gas and batons to disperse the crowd that included families with small children.
Jesús is the second Latino and third youth or man of color to die in the presence of Durham police since July. The police chief is being investigated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for failing to hire and promote officers of color following a complaint by the Deputy Police Chief. And according to the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, evidence strongly suggests that the Durham Police Department uses racial profiling in traffic stops.
We ask that the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the circumstances surrounding Jesús Huerta’s death and the broader pattern of civil rights violations.
Please address the tragic death of Jesús Huerta by acting today.