Baytown Police Officer Juan Delacruz was acquitted on Tuesday for the killing of Pamela Turner in 2019.
After a five-daylong trial and deliberating for several hours over two days, a Harris County jury found Delacruz not guilty of one count of first-degree aggravated assault by a public servant.
Three years ago, Delacruz, who is Hispanic, gunned down Turner, a 44-year-old Black woman in an apartment complex while trying to arrest her for outstanding warrants. Bystander cell phone footage caught part of the incident and has been circulated online. The 30-second clip shows Turner resisting arrest and wrestling Delacruz. Delacruz pulled out his taser and shot it at Turner. Turner continued to resist and allegedly grabbed the taser. Delacruz steps back and fires five shots.
Turner’s family maintains that Turner was having a mental health crisis, as she had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
Prosecutors said the shooting did not have to happen. They argued Delacruz knew Turner suffered from mental illness as the two were neighbors, living in the same apartment complex. Delacruz also served as a security officer for the complex.
“She wasn’t perfect, and we’ve not tried to hide that from you guys today,” prosecutor Timothy Adams told jurors. “But the fact is she did not deserve to die on the sidewalk, a few feet from her home.”
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing Turner’s family, also represented many families of victims killed by police, like George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Daunte Wright.
Crump said Turner’s shooting is not only “unjustified,” but her case had an even bigger significance.
“The reason this trial is so critically important is if the jury finds Delacruz guilty, it will be the first time in American history that a police officer is convicted in the killing of a Black woman,” Crump said ahead of the trial.
According to local NBC news affiliate, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said jurors were prevented by the judge from hearing evidence related to past encounters between Turner and Delacruz.
Ogg said that when “the jury isn’t able to receive all the evidence, it’s hard for justice to be heard.”
One of Delacruz’s attorneys, Greg Cagle, argued that he shot Turner in self-defense only after she used his stun gun against him and that he feared for his life.
“Pamela Turner made a decision to evade arrest, to resist arrest, take a weapon from a police officer, not only take it but then use it against him,” he told jurors.
It still remains on clear whether Delacruz was actually tased as the moment wasn’t caught on his body camera or the bystander’s footage.
The veteran officer has been with the Baytown police department since 2008. He did not face any disciplinary action after the shooting and was placed on paid administrative leave as he was awaiting trial.
Delacruz was facing five years to life in prison.
Turner’s family has a federal civil rights lawsuit against the officer and the city of Baytown remains pending.
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