The unarmed grandmother of three who was shot and killed by a police officer in suburban Houston last week was set to be laid to rest on Thursday. Pamela Turner died after Baytown Police Officer Juan Delacruz fired multiple shots at close range following his botched attempt to arrest her for what lawyers described as a false pretense.
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The 45-year-old’s funeral services were scheduled to take place Thursday morning at Lilly Grove Baptist Church in Houston. Rev. Al Sharpton was slated to give Turner’s eulogy and his National Action Network civil rights organization announced it was paying for the funeral services.
Ben Crump, the civil rights attorney who was representing Turner’s family, was expected to discuss the findings of an independent autopsy during a press conference Wednesday afternoon in Houston alongside other attorneys as well as Turner’s sister, Antoinette Dorsey-James, and her children, Chelsie Rubin and Cameron January.
The website of the Harris County Medical Examiner’s office confirmed last week that the “manner of death” for Turner was “homicide.” The primary cause of death was listed as “multiple gunshot wounds.” However, Delacruz has remained gainfully employed by the Baytown Police Department more than a week after the “homicide” that police said he happened when approached her in an apartment complex parking lot because she had outstanding warrants. Crump said last week that was 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 last Thursday morning before Delacruz’s identity had been confirmed. “The Baytown Police Department are lying on #pamelaturner when they say she had outstanding warrants.”
Baytown Police seemingly tried to blame Turner for her own death, releasing a statement that said she used Delacruz’s Taser against him, purportedly prompting him to fear for his life and shoot her.
“During the course of the attempted arrest, the female began struggling with the officer, which forced the officer to deploy his Taser,” Baytown Police Department Lt. Steve Dorris said May 14, the morning after the shooting. “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.”
However, the video of the fatal encounter, recorded by a bystander, did not appear to show Turner reaching for anything. In fact, Turner can be heard on the video telling Delacruz he was harassing her.
Despite all of the above, Delacruz was placed on paid administrative leave, a curious status for someone who the county’s medical examiner said definitely committed a “homicide” after he apparently ignored his police training and resorted to lethal force against the unarmed Turner. Adding insult to literal injury was the fact that Delacruz reportedly lived in the same apartment complex and knew Turner, who screamed “I’m pregnant!” in the seconds before she was hot, was suffering from mental illness.
“He never gave her any verbal commands,” Crump told the Final Call recently. “There’s nothing on that video that shows that she was a threat to him in any way where he had to use unnecessary, unjustifiable, unimaginable, excessive force like he did in that video when he shot her five times at point blank range while she laid on the ground. It is just the most horrific murder that we’ve ever seen by one of these police officers killing an unarmed Black person, much less, an unarmed Black woman, which makes it all the more reprehensible.”
Turner’s children ripped into the Baytown Police Department during a press conference last week.
“My mom is not a horrible person, she’s so loving, she’s so caring,” Rubin said.
“My mother was not an evil person, she was not a criminal,” January added. “I won’t stand here and let ya’ll make her look like that… I didn’t receive a phone call. They didn’t want to tell us how things were done or give us any information. I had to sit there and replay this video of my mother getting murdered.”
Turner’s death appeared to be the latest evidence that police routinely react to Black and brown suspects vastly different from white ones despite the level of threat posed to officers. That point was proven and then some this week when an “armed and dangerous” white man accused of shooting and killing one police officer while injuring two others in an Alabama trailer park was somehow able to be peacefully arrested.
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