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Cop Shooting of Mentally Ill Black Woman An Unjustifiable Execution Say Family, Activists

By Rhodesia Muhammad -Contributing Writer- | Last updated: May 22, 2019 - 11:10:12 AM

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‘He Had No Reason To Shoot Her!’

Antoinette Dorsey-James holds a picture of her sister Pamela Turner during a news conference outside the Harris County Civil Court in Houston on May 16.

HOUSTON—“To the city of Baytown, shame on you!” said Tracy Frazier, older sister of Pamela Turner, the 44-year-old Black woman whose last moments of life were captured on video as a Baytown police officer, Juan Delacruz, fatally shot her, in a city about 45 miles east of Houston, Texas.

The mother of two and grandmother of three was walking home when she was approached by Officer Delacruz in her apartment complex, where he also lived. According to authorities, Mr. Delacruz, who was aware of Ms. Turner’s mental illness, attempted to arrest her because he reportedly recognized her as having outstanding warrants, which the family denies.

The May 13 confrontation quickly escalated to Mr. Delacruz using his taser to subdue Ms. Turner, who can be heard on cellphone recorded video, yelling, “I’m pregnant.” When that didn’t work, Mr. Delacruz claimed that Ms. Turner got hold of his taser and tased him which led to him using deadly force. Although Mr. Delacruz shot at Ms. Turner five times while she was on the ground, it was unclear, by Final Call press time, the number of times she was shot.

Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who is representing the Turner family says he and many people across America, not just Black people, but all people who have any sense of morals, decency and respect for human life should be outraged. “He literally assaulted and battered an unarmed Black woman for no articulable purpose. When she tried to protect herself from being tased, she told him that she was pregnant. Whether she was pregnant or not, she told him she was pregnant and he still tased her in the stomach area, which means he had no respect for her life or the life that may have been inside her stomach,” he told The Final Call. A second independent autopsy will be conducted, he said.

“He never gave her any verbal commands. 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,” Atty. Crump added. “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.”

The video quickly circulated on social media sparking outrage across the nation. Community activist and founder of Stop the Killing, Inc., Arthur “Silky Slim” Reed, immediately drove to Houston from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, when he saw the video. “Every day, I live in fear of my young Black sons leaving home and possibly not making it back to the house, either by the hands of the streets or by the hands of the police,” said Mr. Reed.

“When I watched the video, I said damn, now I have to worry about my daughter and my aunties, as a Black woman not making it home; especially, when you see cops violently attack and shoot a Black woman down in the streets. That’s an attack on the whole nation of Black families,” he stated.

Attorney and activist Sadiyah Evangelista Karriem asserts that there’s a systematic attack on the Black woman in the media. “What we’ve been seeing is a lot of these social media clips; women and girls being brutalized, attacked by law enforcement and the police and it sets up in order to desensitize and take the empathy away to devalue the Black woman. So, when these crimes continually occur, then you’ll have people who will record it and not stand up and do anything about it,” she said.

According to Atty. Evangelista Karriem, research on statistics she reviewed with the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, and in Texas alone, there has been an increase of 908 women incarcerated. Twice the amount of men from 1980-2016. “When you look at the statistics, along with the increase in violence against Black women in the media, then you see there’s a systematic plan to destroy the Black woman,” she argued.

The Turner family is outraged and disappointed at how the Baytown police department and media are portraying Pamela Turner. They believe Mr. Delacruz had a personal vendetta against their loved one.

Ms. Frazier wanted The Final Call to tell the truth about who her sister really was. “What I want everyone to know on behalf of my family, myself and my sister Pamela is that she was not who they are trying to portray her as: some criminal out there doing things against the law, some drug addict that didn’t have a life and just wandering the streets, causing trouble. She actually had a life,” said Ms. Frazier. 

“She actually worked and she at one time was a taxpaying citizen just like anybody else, but because of her illness (schizophrenia) she could no longer work. She didn’t bother anybody. All she wanted to do is be left alone. And I want people to know that these so-called warrants that they are claiming she had, making her out to be some hardened criminal, there’s no basis to it.

“My sister was the type of person that was gentle,” Ms. Frazier continued. “She minded her own business. Just like she was doing that night. She was a very loving person who loved her children and grandchildren. She was the youngest of the four of us and had been living in Texas since 1993. This was her home. She wasn’t that person that was a law breaker. She abided by the law. My sister was simply mentally ill.”

This latest cop involved killing of a civilian is not the only one the state of Texas has been involved in. Records revealed that 20 percent of people shot by Texas police were unarmed. A report that tracks officer involved shootings of civilians includes Texas officers’ shootings of juveniles and unarmed adults suffering from mental health issues. Houston had the highest number of cop shootings.

On April 29, 2017, an unarmed Black teen, Jordan Edwards, 15, was fatally shot in the back of the head by police officer Roy Oliver in Batch Springs, Texas. Off. Oliver was responding to a 911 call of a party that had underaged teens drinking. He shot into the car the teen was riding in because he said the car was moving toward him. However, body cam footage proved that it wasn’t.

Officer K. Levy, of the Houston Police Department, shot and killed Peter Matthew Gaines, an unarmed Black man, after seeing him damage a street sign March 12, 2016. Witnesses reported he had mental health issues. However, Mr. Levy claimed he feared for his life when Mr. Gaines lunged at him.

David Joseph, a Black, unarmed 17 year old with mental health issues, was shot twice by Off. Geoffrey Freeman, on February 8, 2016, in Austin. Off. Freeman said he used deadly force because he feared the teen would overpower him when he responded to a call that he was naked and chasing people.

“When you see this type of action, I tell many people, we cannot overlook that the Blue Klux Klan is in full effect. People always say comply or die, but you don’t see them killing White folks like this,” Mr. Reed asserted. 

Council member and former Houston police officer Mike Knox disagreed, stating there is no double standard when it comes to Blacks and Whites dealing with police officers. There’s just a difference of opinion or a difference of perspective, he argued. “The facts that we have, is that the officer was aware of a warrant or warrants that (Ms. Turner) had, she resisted his arrest and it ensued.”

Community activist Tex Christopher whose uncle was shot and killed as a police officer says he sees disobedience when he watches the video of Ms. Turner’s death. “I see someone not submitting unto the authority of the badge and that’s the problem that we have here. When you have her kicking and tasing him and it’s his life that is in danger and bottom line is this her rights end where his rights begin and his job is to sit there and enforce the law and that’s why we have the law. So, you’re either on the right side of the law or you’re on the wrong side of the law, but the choice is up to you. And at the end of the day, she made her choice,” he declared in an interview on Houston’s Fox 26, the Isiah Factor.

Family members of the slain woman and activists vehemently disagree. “I don’t know why there are people out there that don’t think there was anything wrong with what that man did,” Ms. Frazier stated. “From the moment he jumped out of his car and stood in her face and started harassing her, he violated her rights. She was defenseless. Whether she was holding the taser in her hand or not, if you look at that video, she was not a threat to him. He had no reason to shoot her. What he should’ve done is backed away from her, but he chose not to do that,” she pointed out.

There’s no proof yet that Ms. Turner fired the taser at Mr. Delacruz. However, he admitted to tasing her. A taser can only let off one shot, then the electrode wires will need to be re-wound and repacked. A new gas cartridge has to be reloaded each time it’s fired, which is why Ms. Frazier said her sister was defenseless.

“If the past is any indication, we’re not optimistic that the outcome will be any different than the other shootings that have taken place over the last 32 years that I have been the student minister in Houston, Texas,” said Dr. Abdul Haleem Muhammad, Southwest Regional Representative of the Nation of Islam and student minister of Mosque No. 45 in Houston. 

“A Black woman in America is an endangered species and we as men are not men if we’re not willing to stand up and defend our women and children,” he told The Final Call.

Activist and founder of Project Forward, Deric Muhammad, and men of Muhammad Mosque No. 45 went to Baytown to the scene of the shooting and spoke to the residents of the apartment complex. Mr. Muhammad said they confirmed that the officer indeed lived in the complex and that he had prior run-ins with Ms. Turner. “The residents described her as a motherly figure and she was well loved by the community,” Mr. Muhammad added.

“I believe he had murder in his heart,” Mr. Muhammad said. “An individual’s mindset is not necessarily judged by what they say, it’s judged more accurately by what it is they do. I don’t have to sit down and interview Mr. Delacruz to try and get a read on his mindset. The video clearly states what his mindset was at the time he murdered our sister and that doesn’t just speak to the fact that he killed her, that speaks to the way it was done,” he added.

“How do you shoot a 44-year-old, unarmed woman five times and then render aid afterwards? What the hell kind of aid you trying to render if you’re trained to shoot to kill?” he argued. 

Officer Juan Delacruz is on paid leave pending an on-going investigation.

Ms. Frazier says the family wants justice. “We want him behind bars. We want charges brought on this man because he murdered our sister. We want the indictment,” she concluded.

Funeral services were set for May 23 at Lily Grove Baptist Church, 7034 Tierwester St. in Houston. Rev. Al Sharpton was scheduled to be in attendance.