A grand jury in Texas indicted a police officer Monday in a fatal shooting of a Black woman after a struggle outside the apartment complex where they both lived in May 2019.
Baytown Officer Juan Delacruz was charged with aggravated assault by a public servant more than a year after he shot Pamela Turner, 44, during an altercation over the officer’s stun gun. Delacruz will be given a chance to turn himself in and could face up to five years in prison if convicted, according to prosecutors.
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg called Turner’s death a tragedy. “It is important to acknowledge that her family and the community are in pain,” Ogg said in a statement.
Delacruz was patrolling the complex, located about 25 miles east of Houston, and tried to arrest Turner because they’d had “prior dealings” and he knew she had outstanding warrants, Lt. Steve Dorris told in reporters in 2019. Court records showed three outstanding misdemeanor warrants against Turner at the time.
Dorris said Delacruz then shot Turner after she shocked him with his Taser. The shooting was captured on video by a bystander.
“I’m walking, I’m actually walking to my house,” Turner tells Delacruz in the video, which was obtained by local news outlets. “You’re actually harassing me.”
Turner falls to the ground as Delacruz stands over her and tries to grab her arms. She yells “I’m pregnant” shortly before the officer backs away. Then the video stops but the audio continues. Five gunshots can be heard.
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Greg Cagle, Delacruz’s attorney, told the Associated Press he believed the case against his client was being motivated by politics. Delacruz was defending himself when he shot Turner, Cagle said.
“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. That’s how the officers are trained,” he said.
Police have said Turner was not pregnant. Ben Crump, a lawyer for Turner’s family and several other high profile victims of police brutality, said last year that she had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and Delacruz knew his neighbor suffered from mental illness. Local media has reported that the specific model of Taser could not have fired a second set of darts.
“He absolutely knew that Taser could not be fired again without her changing the cartridge,” Crump, told Houston Public Media in 2019. “And he did not have to use deadly force while she was laying on her back.”
Delacruz, who was hired in 2008, was placed on paid leave after the shooting and returned to work less that two weeks later. The department said he’d be on administrative duty while the Texas Rangers and the civil rights division of the Harris County district attorney’s office investigated the shooting.
The charge against Delacruz comes after months of protests over racism and police violence around the country in the wake of the death of George Floyd in May. Nationwide, advocates are calling for changes to policing, including an end to the practice of having police officers respond to mental health calls after the recent police killing of Daniel Prude, a 41-year-old Black man who suffered from acute mental health problems, and the shooting of Linden Cameron, a 13-year-old boy with autism.
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Contributing: The Associated Press
Follow N’dea Yancey-Bragg on Twitter: @NdeaYanceyBragg
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