Pamela Turner‘s tragic death highlighted the many ways police fail when it comes to interactions with Black community members who suffer from mental illness.
On Monday, a Texas grand jury moved to indict Baytown officer Juan Delacruz on charges of aggravated assault for the May 2019 shooting, USA Today reports. Texas Rangers led the investigation and the findings were turned over to the Harris County District Attorney, who impaneled the grand jury.
Local police authorities defended Delacruz, saying he was subject to use excessive force after he claimed Turner became in possession of his taser. However, reports show that Delacruz initially used his taser on Turner, and if she managed to grab the taser, there was no way the specific model could shoot out a second set of darts.
Delacruz and Turner, 44, were neighbors who had prior interactions before the shooting. On the night of the shooting Delacruz was patrolling their apartment complex when he approached Turner who he was aware had outstanding warrants. A bystander filmed the interaction marking Turner’s last moments that quickly went viral on social media.
“I’m walking, I’m actually walking to my house,” Turner tells Delacruz in the video. “You’re actually harassing me,” she continues.
The two get into a struggle where Turner falls to the floor and Delcruz grabs her arms. Turner can be heard yelling, “I’m pregnant!” Soon after Delacruz steps back and fires five shots, where an independent autopsy showed that two of the shots proved to be fatal, striking her in the chest. Medical reports showed that Turner was not pregnant at the time.
Delacruz was placed on administrative leave after the shooting.
Turner, a mother of two and grandmother of three, suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, which she was diagnosed with in 2005, CBS News reports. Turner’s sister Antoinette told local outlets that she was being harassed by an officer who lived in her apartment complex.
“Justice delayed is justice denied,” Turner’s family attorney Benjamin Crump said while also pointing out that the case was presented to a grand jury after 16 months. “As a society, we must do better.”
“Finally, Pamela Turner; her children, Chelsie Rubin and Cameron January; her sister, Antoinette Dorsey-James; and the rest of Pamela’s family, can receive the justice to which they are entitled,” he continued.
Delacruz will be able to turn himself in and could face up to five years in prison if convicted, according to prosecutors.