The familiar refrain of police officers claiming they feared for their lives as the reason for killing Black suspects got a reality check on Wednesday when new evidence in a Texas shooting appeared to undermine what’s become law enforcement’s favorite line of defense.
Pamela Turner, who was gunned down a year ago after being approached under reportedly false pretenses by a cop in the Houston suburb of Baytown. Her killer, Baytown Police Officer Juan Manual Delacruz, who is still employed with the department, used his Taser on the 44-year-old grandmother of three who was neither armed nor an actual suspect of an actual crime during the encounter in an apartment complex parking lot. Delacruz purportedly suspected she had an open warrant (she did not) and accosted Turner, resulting in a physical struggle and the Taser being fired. When Turner managed to take the Taser from Delacruz, he shot her to death. The deadly encounter was captured on video.
However, according to Benjamin Crump, the civil rights attorney representing Turner’s family, Delacruz should not have had any fear for his life. That’s because the kind of Taser Delacruz was carrying cannot be fired twice automatically, Crump revealed on Wednesday — the anniversary of the shooting. The model of the Taser confirmed that, Crump told Houston Public Media in an exclusive report.
“He did not have to use deadly force while she was laying on her back,” Crump said of Delacruz. “He absolutely knew that Taser could not be fired again without her changing the cartridge.”
That fact undermines Delacruz’s defense and should result in the officer being arrested and charged with Turner’s death. Crump said.
“We’re going to demand, based on this new information, that the district attorney, Kim Ogg, file charges against this police officer for unnecessary and unjustifiable use of deadly force of unarmed Pam Turner,” Crump said.
The case reportedly remains under review by the local district attorney’s office.
Turner’s family has said she was suffering from a mental illness at the time of the shooting. The Baytown Police Department also said that Delacruz was acquainted with Turner, which then begs the question of how we did not factor her mental illness into the encounter on May 13, 2019. Either way, it was unclear why he resorted to lethal force, especially against someone who was unarmed and appeared to pose no imminent physical threat.
The Houston Chronicle reported last year that prior to the shooting of Turner, Delacruz had “completed dozens of hours of training in crisis intervention and use of force.”
But this is America.