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Family of Texas woman killed by police files federal suit

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HOUSTON (AP) — Family members of a Black woman who was fatally shot near her Texas apartment after struggling with an officer over his stun gun filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Thursday, saying they are still seeking justice for her.

Pamela Turner, 44, was killed in May 2019 in the parking lot of her suburban Houston apartment complex after a confrontation with Baytown Officer Juan Delacruz, who also lived at the complex. Delacruz shot Turner after a struggle over the officer’s stun gun that a bystander captured on video.

Turner’s family and their attorneys have said Turner, who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 2005, was suffering a mental health crisis at the time of the shooting.

Named in the lawsuit were Delacruz, the city of Baytown, a Houston suburb, and the apartment complex where the shooting took place.

Greg Cagle, Delacruz’s attorney, said Thursday he had not yet seen the lawsuit but reiterated his client was only defending himself.

“If you take a police officer’s Taser, you are going to get shot 100% of the time. There is no doubt about it,” Cagle said.

Alice Jauregui, a Baytown spokeswoman, said the city does not comment on pending litigation. Cypress Point Equity Partners, the owner of the apartment complex, didn’t immediately reply to emails seeking comment.

“We’re hurting and we’re spending so much time trying to fight for her recognition that we haven’t had a chance to grieve,” said Chelsie Rubin, 23, Turner’s daughter. “All I know is right here today, every day is a fight and we’re going to continue.”

Turner’s family announced the lawsuit at a news conference in downtown Houston on what would have been her 46th birthday. They were joined by Tamika Palmer, the mother of Breonna Taylor, a Black emergency medical worker who was shot five times by white Louisville, Kentucky, officers in March 2020 as they served a warrant.

Rubin and Palmer said they were upset that Delacruz was still employed by Baytown police.

“We watched him commit a crime. We watched him,” Palmer said. “We watched George Floyd die to bring attention to Breonna. Breonna died for me to learn about Pamela. I’m tired. I’m tired. We deserve so much more.”

Both Turner’s family and Taylor’s family are represented by Benjamin Crump, who also represents Floyd’s family.

“We demand equal justice now for Pam Turner, for Breonna Taylor … for Black women’s lives,” said Crump, who had come to Houston from Minneapolis, where former Officer Derek Chauvin is currently being tried in Floyd’s death.

Delacruz was indicted in September 2020 on a charge of aggravated assault by a public servant, a felony that could lead to a sentence of five years to life in prison if he’s convicted. Cagle said Delacruz is on administrative assignment within the police department.

After Turner’s fatal shooting, the city of Baytown created a citizens police advisory committee following criticism for several police involved incidents. In September, a grand jury indicted an ex-Baytown police officer who was accused of kicking a man while another person recorded video of their traffic stop.

At a meeting in February, the committee voted in favor of making issues related to how officers respond to calls and interact with individuals with mental illness as its top priority.

Raphael Montgomery, a pastor and the committee chair, told Baytown Police Interim Chief Mike Holden at the meeting that “the relationship between the police and particularly African-Americans in Baytown is not very good.”

“Those are definitely things we have got to improve upon,” Holden said.

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Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70

By JUAN A. LOZANO
Associated Press

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