Pamela Turner is one of 51 Black women who have been killed by police in the U.S. since 2015.
BAYTOWN, Texas (CN) — Black civil rights leaders, joined by the families of George Floyd and Jacob Blake, rallied Thursday near an apartment complex in Baytown, Texas, questioning why an officer who fatally shot a mentally ill Black woman at the property two years ago to the day has not been fired.
Pam Turner, 44, had been served with an eviction notice hours before Baytown Police Officer Juan Delacruz approached her in the complex parking lot the night of May 13, 2019 and tried to her arrest her on a warrant.
“I’m walking! I’m actually walking to my house!” Turner said, breaking free of Delacruz’s grasp.
Like Floyd, her final moments were filmed by a bystander.
“You’re actually harassing me!” Turner said, as Delacruz shot her with a Taser and threw her to the ground.
“I’m pregnant!” Turner shouted. She ripped Delacruz’s Taser from his hands. He stepped back and fired five shots, hitting her in the face, chest and stomach. The chest and stomach shots were lethal, her autopsy showed. She was not pregnant.
Delacruz still works for Baytown PD, even though a grand jury charged him in September with aggravated assault by a public servant, which carries a punishment of five years to life.
He’s set for a hearing May 25 at a courthouse in downtown Houston and Turner’s supporters promised Wednesday they will pack the courtroom.
“On the night of the 24th we’re going to spend the night outside the courthouse for a prayer vigil,” Bishop James Dixon, Houston NAACP president, told a crowd of around 150 people, standing on the bed of a truck at a park across the street from Turner’s apartment complex.
“We’re going to have prayer warriors all night praying before the court opens. So when the door opens, prayer warriors will go in standing for justice and demanding justice for Pamela Turner,” Bishop said.
Turner’s daughter and son have filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Baytown, which is 30 miles east of downtown Houston, Delacruz and the company that manages the complex.
They are represented by Ben Crump, who has become the go-to counsel for the families of Black victims of police shootings and misconduct. He also represents the families of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Jacob Blake.
“Two years ago Pam Turner was disrespected in a way that no human being should be disrespected. Malcolm X said the most disrespected, the most unprotected and the most neglected person in America is the Black woman,” Crump said.
He called Delacruz a coward for opening fire on Turner. Her children say in the lawsuit Delacruz knew Turner could not use his Taser on him because she would have first had to load a new cartridge into it, and she was not close enough to press it against him and use its drive-stun mode.
“He could have done any number of things,” Crump said. “He could have given verbal commands. He could have created distance. He could have called for backup. He could have got behind a car. But what did that coward do? He took his gun out and shot at her five times while she was on the ground saying ‘I’m pregnant.’”
Monique Pressley, a Washington attorney and civil rights advocate, said Turner is one of 51 Black women who have been killed by police in the U.S. since 2015, citing a Washington Post database.
“What is it about our bodies that is so threatening that the only thing they can do is kill us?” Pressley seethed. “What they are afraid of is that when we get the power this entire system will be turned, not upside down but right side up.”
Defenders of law enforcement often use the cliché that most police are good but there a few bad apples.
Tezlyn Figaro, a political analyst, podcast host and consultant for Crump, ripped Black U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat, for his use of the analogy.
“So if you say that it’s about a bad apple then I’ve got to ask somebody well what about the tree?” she said. “What about the tree that was planted in the soil? I need Jim to know it’s about the tree and not about the apples… But you are fertilizing that thing and you’re enabling that bullshit.”
Jacob Blake Sr., whose 29-year-old son and namesake was paralyzed from the waist down when he was shot four times in the back in August 2020 by a Kenosha, Wisconsin policeman as he leaned into his van, said he had got up off his sick bed to fly to Texas for the rally.
He criticized President Joe Biden In a short fiery speech.
“How you can sign an executive order to protect the Asian people and forget about the Black community and we put your ass in the White House?” he said.
Turning his attention to Turner, Blake said, “What’s not right is not right. And enough is enough. And I’m so tired of it I could sleep standing up. It’s too much. I love all ya’ll. I don’t know half of ya’ll but I love all of ya’ll… We must unite. We fear nothing. Unite. Families have united.”
While the crowd broke out in chants of “Delacruz has got to go,” no Baytown police were there to hear them.
A few Houston police showed up, however, to support the cause. “We have to be good listeners. Like Gandhi said, ‘We have to listen.’ And right now we can’t do it alone. We have to engage and collaborate and work together as a team to make these positive changes,” said HPD Sgt. Jose Salazar.
“The most important thing with the community is to build that trust. … Because without trust you don’t have anything. So we have to be proactive and engage everyone and show everyone that we do really love them and care about them,” he added.