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Family hopes for justice as policeman charged in black woman’s 2019 death

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Sep 18, 2020 - 09:29 AM

WASHINGTON — The family of a black woman shot dead 16 months ago by a Texas police officer said justice was closer Thursday after the officer was charged in her death.

Officer Juan Delacruz of Baytown, a Houston suburb, was indicted earlier this week by a grand jury for felony aggravated assault in the death of 44-year-old Pamela Turner.

“This is one step closer to getting the justice that my mom deserves and in allowing her to be able to rest respectfully, as she should, because she didn’t deserve to die,” Turner’s daughter Chelsea Rubin said in a press conference Thursday.

Turner’s case is the latest of a series that have shone a spotlight on what critics say is widespread police impunity in mistreating African-Americans.

Turner, whose family says was mentally ill, died in a scuffle with Delacruz on May 13, 2019, as he sought to arrest her on minor charges.

A bystander video shows the two struggling as he tried to handcuff her and she shouted that he was harassing her.

He tried to use his stun gun on her, and she apparently tried to grab it, shouting that she was pregnant. Then, with Delacruz out of the view of the video, five shots are heard.

After she died, Delacruz, who claimed self-defense, was only placed on administrative leave — but only for a week. Police said she was not pregnant at the time of death.

The case was meanwhile turned over to the Texas Rangers to investigate. The grand jury indictment this week came nine months after the Rangers finalized their report.

The charges are “a significant step toward justice and a validation that her life had worth… that black women’s lives matter,” said civil rights attorney Ben Crump, representing the family.

Crump also represents the family of Breonna Taylor, the black woman shot dead by police in her own home earlier this year in Louisville, Kentucky.

After months of protests to force attention on her case, on Tuesday Louisville announced a $12 million settlement in a wrongful death suit by her family.

In the Turner case, Delacruz will go on trial on October 28, and faces a sentence of up to life in prison if found guilty.

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