Attorney for Pamela Turner’s family plans to file suit as next step for seeking justice in fatal police shooting

Race in America

FILE – In this May 16, 2019 file photo, Antoinette Dorsey-James holds a picture of her sister Pamela Turner during a news conference outside the Harris County Civil Court in Houston. Baytown Police Officer Juan Delacruz has been charged with assault for fatally shooting Turner in the parking lot of an apartment complex where they both lived in May 2019 prosecutors announced Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. (Godofredo A Vasquez/Houston Chronicle via AP File)

BAYTOWN, Tex. (NewsNation Now) – A few days after a Texas police officer was charged with aggravated assault for shooting a Black woman outside her apartment, her attorney called for police leaders to make reforms or step down.

Pamela Turner, 44, was shot and killed in the parking lot of her apartment complex in May 2019. The incident was partially caught on camera by a bystander. The video shows Baytown officer, Juan Delacruz, approaching Turner; she resists.

Video of the incident shows Turner and Delacruz struggling over a taser. At one point Turner shouts, “I’m pregnant,” though that turned out not to be true based on autopsy reports. After the struggle, Delacruz shot Turner five times.

An attorney for Turner’s family, Ben Crump, said Delacruz knew Turner because he was also a security guard at her apartment complex. Court records show Turner had three outstanding misdemeanor warrants at the time.

Crump claims Delacruz must have known Turner had been evicted that day and used that knowledge to try and arrest her that night.

“He knew Ms. Turner. He knew that she suffered from mental illness, he knew that the warrants he purportedly wanted to serve were low level warrants that did not need to be served,” said attorney Devon Jacob Thursday.

Turner’s family has said she was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Greg Cagle, Delacruz’s lawyer, on Monday said that the officer was defending himself and acted within his training and the law.

“When someone takes a police officer’s taser and then uses it against them, the officer is left with no options other than deadly force,” Cagle said.

Jacob rebutted that Thursday. He said “the force used by Juan Delacruz is objectively unreasonable […] any other properly trained officer in the same circumstance would not have used the force that he used.”

Thursday, Crump, Jacob, and Turner’s family said the charge brought forth this week is a step in the right direction.

Crump said it “is a significant step towards justice and a validation that her [Turner] life has worth.”

Chealsea Rubin, Turner’s daughter, said she prayed her mother’s death would not be in van.

“She will never come back,” said Rubin. “I will never hear her voice again, so this is one step closer to getting the justice my mom deserves and to allow her to rest respectfully.”

Rubin said she was pleased to see the grand jury believed Delacruz’s actions were wrong, but Crump added that Baytown Police leadership should be held accountable if they condone what happen.

Crump said, “the two significant factors whether you live or die should not be your mental health condition or the color of your skin,” when police are called to a scene.

Jacob echoed his comments. He said police leadership “need[s] to go, unless they step up and say out department did wrong, and our department will do right going forward.”

Crump also pointed to the significance of the charge being filed the same week Breonna Taylor’s family reached a settlement agreement with the city of Louisville. The city will pay Taylor’s mother $12 million, as well as implement several police reforms.

Crump and Jacob said they plan to take similar action in Turner’s case. They said her family should be compensated and that there needs to be “non-monetary relief.”

They are calling on the city of Baytown to make changes, but did not specify what changes they want.

A police spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment to the Associated Press.

Jacob said they plan to file a civil lawsuit within 30 days.

Delacruz returned to work soon after the shooting, but the department said he’d be on administrative duty while the criminal probe was ongoing. A spokesman has not answered questions about Delacruzs’ employment status since he was charged Monday.

He is charged with aggravated assault by a public servant. He could face five years to life in prison if convicted. Court documents show he bonded out of jail at $25,000. His trial is scheduled for October 28th.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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