Growing calls for expanded investigation into Pamela Turner's shooting death

HOUSTON – On the day loved ones and community members said goodbye to a woman fatally shot by a Baytown Police officer, questions mounted about what happened the night she died.

A funeral service was held for Pamela Turner, 44, Thursday, at Lilly Grove Missionary Baptist Church, on Houston’s south side.

Officer Juan Delacruz fatally shot Turner in the parking lot of Turner’s apartment complex on May 13. The Baytown Police Department has said Delacruz arrived at the complex to serve Turner a warrant for her arrest on misdemeanor charges. Police said a scuffle occurred between Delacruz and Turner, during which Turner grabbed Delacruz’s Taser and tasered him. That’s when police said Delacruz opened fire, killing Turner.

Video from a witness captured the encounter.

An independent autopsy conducted by a pathologist commissioned by Turner’s family reported Turner was shot three times from a distance: once in the face, once in the chest, once in the abdomen.

Turner’s family said the independent autopsy, coupled with the independent autopsy, confirms Turner’s death was unjustified. They argued Turner did not pose a threat to Delacruz since he was backing away during the confrontation – before firing his duty weapon.

They also claim Baytown police officers, including Delacruz, antagonized Turner, who battled schizophrenia. According to the family, the police department was aware of Turner’s mental illness.

Community activists and politicians have joined the family’s search for answers in Turner’s case.

Two investigations currently underway

The Texas Rangers continue their investigation into the shooting.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced Thursday her office’s Civil Rights Division was investigating the case, as well. In a statement to KPRC2, Ogg said the division would turn its findings over to a grand jury to decide if charges should be filed against Delacruz.

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee called for the Justice Department to launch a dual investigation: one into the alleged denial of Turner's civil rights, the other into alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, because of Turner’s mental illness.

"She was squarely, clearly, mistreated as an individual who they had knowledge that she had mental health issues," Jackson Lee said.

Jackson Lee, along with Ben Crump, the civil rights attorney representing Turner’s family, called on Ogg to convene a grand jury now. Crump said video of the shooting and an autopsy report are strong enough pieces of evidence to convene a grand jury.

"It's very clear. Once you review that video it tells you, coupled with the autopsy, everything you need to know to arrive at how you present this evidence to a grand jury," Crump said.

Delacruz returns to work

The Baytown Police Department confirmed to KPRC2 on Thursday that Delacruz returned from administrative leave Monday.

“Officer Delacruz has completed his mandatory three-day administrative leave, which is standard when an officer is involved in a critical incident. Officer Delacruz returned to 'work' Monday, however, while he has returned to work, he has been placed on administrative duties while the investigation continues,” said Lt. Steve Dorris, of the Baytown Police Department.

Dorris said Delacruz is not patrolling the streets.

At Turner’s funeral Thursday, several speakers expressed concern over the decision to allow Delacruz to return. The Rev. Al Sharpton, who delivered Turner’s eulogy, called the move disrespectful.

"And you signal you're not serious by restoring this officer, but who is going to restore Pamela?" Sharpton said during the ceremony.

About the Author:

Emmy and Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. NOLA born and bred, though #HoustonStrong, with stops in Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut in along the way.