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art by Favianna Rodriguez

Art by Favianna Rodriguez

“ Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral. ” – Paulo Freire, Educator

Tell the Justice Department to investigate 17 year old Jesus Huerta's death

Here's the message we sent to our members. After you've read it, please add your voice.

Jesús was killed while in custody of an out-of-control police department at just 17Rep. Hinojosa

Tell the Department of Justice to investigate his death

Dear Friend,

Last Tuesday, 17-year-old Jesús Huerta was shot and killed while sitting in the back of a police car in Durham, NC. Jesús's friends say he left his Durham, NC home at 2am to escape an argument. When Jesús's sister called the police to make sure her brother would be ok, she couldn't have expected that her brother would die as a result.1

Right now there are more questions than answers in Jesús's death. Why did the officer arrest Jesus instead of bringing him to his home just two blocks away?2 Did the officer properly search and restrain Jesús before putting him in the police car? Who shot Jesús?

Here's what we do know: Jesús is the second Latino man and third man of color to die in the presence of Durham police since July.3,4 We know that the police chief is being investigated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for failing to hire and promote officers of color.5 And evidence strongly suggests that the Durham Police Department uses racial profiling in traffic stops.6

Enough is enough. Please join us in calling on the US Department of Justice (DOJ) to launch a civil rights investigation of the Durham Police Department.

The DOJ has the power to take over and reform local police departments that show a pattern or practice of behavior that violates civil rights. A DOJ investigation could not only get to the bottom of what happened to Jesús — it could prevent what happened to Jesús from happening to other young Latino men and other men of color.

Jesus's tragic death was set into motion on November 19 when he left home at 2am to escape an argument. Jesús's sister called the police at their mother's behest. She was worried about her son and wanted him home.

Police picked Jesús up just minutes after the call, a couple of blocks from his home. But instead of taking him home, the officer sought to arrest him for trespassing — the lowest class of misdemeanor. The officer could have written a citation and brought Jesús to his family. Instead, he brought Jesus to the Durham Police Department, where the fatal shots rang out.

What happened to Jesús, from the decision to arrest him to his death itself, cannot be taken in isolation from the Durham Police Department's checkered recent history. In August, a DPD officer shot and killed 33-year-old immigrant Jose Adan Cruz Ocampo, who was handing a knife to another police officer handle-first. In July, DPD shot a suicidal African American man. In the last couple of years, DPD officers have been accused of kidnapping and assaulting a Latina transgender woman and using excessive force on an African American woman, leaving her face swollen and bruised.7, 8

There's evidence that despite the chief's Latino heritage, DPD fosters a culture hostile to people of color. A November report suggested that DPD engages in racial profiling in traffic stops. And the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is investigating a claim by the Deputy Police Chief that African American officers are routinely passed over for promotions.

It's abundantly clear that the Durham Police Department needs systemic reform, before the next Jesus Huerta or Jose Adan Cruz Ocampo is killed. Please join us in calling on the Department of Justice to swiftly launch a patterns and practices investigation into DPD.

Thanks and ¡adelante!
Arturo, Roberto, Jesús, Erick, Erica and the rest of the Presente.org Team

P.S. Can you donate $5 to support our work? We rely on contributions from people like you to see campaigns like this through.

1. "'He was happy to be alive': Friend doesn't think Jesus Huerta would commit suicide", Nov. 21, 2013.
2. "Durham police radio traffic indicates they considered Huerta a 'runaway'", Nov. 25, 2013.
3. "Attorney: Man was handing officer knife when he was shot", Aug. 2, 2013.
4. "Man shot, killed by police in downtown Durham identified", Sep. 18, 2013.
5. "Durham, feds, reviewing allegations against police chief", Sep. 18, 2013.
6. "Durham Police Department Stop-and-Search Data", Nov. 15, 2013.
7. "Bond lowered for Durham officer on kidnapping, sex assault charges", Apr. 12, 2011.
8. "Charges dropped against woman who said Durham police officer beat her", Jan. 24, 2013.