Funeral services were held on May 23 for Pamela Turner, an unarmed, 44-year-old Houston-area grandmother of three who was shot and killed by Baytown, Texas police officer Juan Delacruz outside of her suburban apartment complex on May 13 in what civil rights attorney Ben Crump has called an “unjustifiable execution.” The Rev. Al Sharpton gave a eulogy for Turner during a service on Thursday at a Houston church.
Community leaders, elected officials, and relatives are calling for action following her murder. In his eulogy, Rev. Sharpton said that the community will not rest until there is justice for Turner.
Baytown police report that Delacruz pulled the trigger on the African American woman during an attempted arrest after she allegedly used his Taser on him. Video footage of the incident does not indicate that Turner posed any threat to the officer before he fired five bullets into her stomach, chest, and face from a “safe distance” away as Turner laid on the ground. In the video footage of the confrontation, Turner is heard saying “You’re actually harassing me,” “I’m actually walking to my house,” “Why? Why?,” and “I’m pregnant.”
Crump has suggested that Turner, who was diagnosed in 2005 with paranoid schizophrenia, may have been in crisis at the time of the murder. Delacruz was Turner’s neighbor and admitted to knowing of her mental illness beforehand.
The police department was quick to release autopsy results that showed that Turner was not pregnant. Crump has suggested that Turner may have claimed to be pregnant in order to protect herself because she was fearful for her life. He also suggested that she may have tried to take the officer’s Taser because she was unarmed and trying to defend herself.
At a press conference three days after the killing of Turner, her daughter, Chelsie Rubin, tears streaming down her face, said, “I still can’t believe my momma isn’t there. I’m still waiting for her to call me every day, like she did.”
Following three days of paid leave, Delacruz returned to work the following Monday and has been on administrative duty until the investigation into the shooting is concluded.
Turner’s death is yet another example of the routine discrepancies between police reactions to Black and brown suspects as opposed to white ones. An “armed and dangerous” Alabama white man who shot and killed a police officer was able to be peacefully arrested. By contrast, in March in State College, Pennsylvania, police shot and killed a 29 year-old Black man while responding to a mental health warrant.
Lest we forget, Pamela Turner’s death serves as another important reminder; Black women are killed by the police too.
Sources: CBS News 05/16/19, News One 05/22/19, 05/27/16, New York Times 05/23/19