UPDATED: 2:28 p.m. EDT — The police shooting death of an unarmed Black woman in suburban Houston this week has been determined a homicide, according to a new report. The website of the Harris County Medical Examiner’s office confirmed that the “manner of death” for Pamela Turner was “homicide.” The primary cause of death was listed as “multiple gunshot wounds.”
The ruling seemingly paved the way for the officer who killed Turner to be indicted for murder, though his identity was being concealed by the Baytown Police Department. One journalist identified him as Juan Manuel Delacruz.
The Texas Rangers have taken the lead on the investigation. That is the same law enforcement agency that took over the investigation into the case of an off-duty police officer shot and killed a Black man in his own home last year. Days after Texas Rangers took over, Amber Guyger was charged with murder for killing Botham Jean.
The police department whose officer shot and killed an unarmed grandmother in suburban Houston late Monday night made up a false criminal narrative about the shooting victim, the attorney representing the family said. A spokesperson for the Baytown Police Department said that the officer who shot Pamela Turner approached her because she had outstanding warrants. But according to civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump, that is a lie.
“The police sought to criminalized [sic] this unarmed #blackwoman who the police officer executed her at 10:40pm on May 13, 2019 in Baytown, Texas, a suburb of Houston, Texas,” Crump tweeted Thursday morning. “The Baytown Police Department are lying on #pamelaturner when they say she had outstanding warrants.”
Crump and Turner’s family held a press conference outside of a local courthouse to demand justice and the indictment of the officer in a killing that was captured on video by a bystander.
Baytown police have not identified the officer who shot Turner and would only say that he is Hispanic. But one journalist reported that his name is Juan Manuel Delacruz, an 11-year veteran of the force who has reportedly participated in “other illicit conduct.” Baytown Police Lt. Steve Dorris originally said on Tuesday that the officer, who was patrolling the apartment complex, “had prior encounters with” Turner and “knew the woman had outstanding warrants, so he approached her to arrest her.”
If true, that wasn’t the only way people were apparently trying to assassinate the character of Turner. The 45-year-old’s criminal record, which, of course, is irrelevant to her killing, was publicized in the hours after her death. But one aspect of Turner’s life that seemed to go all but ignored was that she suffered from mental illness, something her family confirmed. It was also something that the officer, during some of those aforementioned “prior dealings,” presumably knew about through their previous encounters.
Either way, it was unclear why someone who theoretically has been trained to de-escalate such situations resorted to lethal force, especially against someone who was unarmed and appeared to pose no imminent physical threat.
Turner had “several bad experiences” with the officer, her family told NBC News. The officer reportedly lives in the same apartment complex where he killed Turner.
Following the shooting, Baytown Police also tried to control the narrative by describing Turner and the aggressor, seemingly placing the blame on her for her own death.
“During the course of the attempted arrest, the female began struggling with the officer, which forced the officer to deploy his Taser,” Dorris also said. “That deployment was not effective, and the female was able to get the officer’s Taser away from him. (She) actually tased the officer, which forced the officer to draw his duty weapon and fire multiple rounds at the suspect.”
The video footage of the shooting seemed to contradict the claim that Turner, sho screamed “I’m pregnant!” seconds before she was shot multiple times at close range, reached for the Taser, let alone actually used it on the officer. Dorris announced later Tuesday afternoon that Turner was not pregnant, according to the Associated Press, which wrote that the lieutenant “didn’t elaborate on how police learned she was not pregnant. Autopsy results have not been released.”
A protest organized by civil rights lawyer S. Lee Merritt and Houston rapper Trae That Truth was held Wednesday to demand the officer’s indictment.
“Certain procedures should have taken place,” Merritt told the Houston Chronicle. “You don’t approach someone that you know to be suffering from a mental health condition the same way that you approach the average citizen.”
Crump announced on Wednesday that he was representing Turner’s family, a move that may indicate a lawsuit against the Baytown Police Department was pending.
In a move that may mean the officer was set to be charged criminally for the shooting, the Texas Rangers were taking over the investigation, according to a new report. The Texas Rangers also took over a case in Dallas last year after an off-duty police officer shot and killed a Black man in his own home. Days after Texas Rangers took over, Amber Guyger was charged with murder for killing Botham Jean.
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