More than 100 people rallied in Baytown Thursday to call on the city’s police department to fire Juan Delacruz, the officer accused of killing Pamela Turner two years ago.
Turner, a black woman, was shot and killed on May 13, 2019, during what her family’s attorney said was a mental health crisis outside the Brixton Apartments in Baytown, where she lived. She was shot five times by Delacruz, who was off duty working as apartment security, according to court documents.
Delacruz remains employed with the police department and is on paid administrative duty.
Turner family attorney Ben Crump, who called Delacruz a “coward,” told the crowd in the parking lot of the Brixton Apartments that the officer’s actions spoke to a general disregard for Black women in America.
“Two years ago Pam Turner was disrespected in a way that no human being should be disrespected,” Crump said. “Malcolm X said that the most disrespected and most unprotected and the most neglected person in America is the Black woman. Well today we declare we will not let them disrespect Pam Turner. We will not let them neglect Pam Turner. We will not let them sweep Pam Turner’s life under the rug.”
The Baytown Police Department did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
In attendance were Turner’s family, as well as family members of other African Americans killed or hurt by police across the country, including the families of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. The rally also included members of the NAACP, and Houston rappers Trae tha Truth and Bun B, who helped organize the protest.
A Harris County grand jury indicted Delacruz last year for aggravated assault by a public servant. He faces five years to life in prison.
In April, Turner’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court. The suit lists Delacruz, the city of Baytown and apartment complex manager Cypress Point Equity Partners as defendants.
The lawsuit alleges the apartment manager harassed Turner, 44, to the point that she retaliated, allegedly scratching the manager and breaking his glasses. She was later charged with misdemeanor criminal mischief and assault, according to court documents. She failed to appear in court, and two warrants were issued for her arrest.
The lawsuit goes on to say Delacruz tried to arrest Turner in order to help the apartment complex evict her, and that around 10:40 p.m. on the day of the eviction notice, Delacruz found her in the parking lot of The Brixton Apartments in the midst of a mental health episode. Delacruz discharged his Taser, and subsequently shot and killed Turner.
Delacruz’s lawyer has said the officer acted in self defense, because Turner was attempting to grab the officer’s Taser.
Reporting from Houston Public Media found that the Taser couldn’t shoot more darts without being manually reloaded.
The suit also alleges that the Baytown Police Department did not properly train its officers on how to deal with mental illness, or how to handle a situation when a person grabs an officer’s Taser.
On Thursday, Crump led the crowd with chants of “Pam Turner’s life mattered” and “Black women lives matter.” One woman in the crowd, Michelle Rogers, came from north Houston to show her support. She called for the officer’s termination, and for his conviction.
“We need justice,” Rogers said. “The man, Delacruz, he needs to do some time. Just like they got the man for George Floyd’s murder, they need to do something about this. Time’s up. Lock him up.”