Texas officer charged with assault in fatal 2019 shooting

BAYTOWN, Texas (AP) — A Texas police officer has been charged with assault for fatally shooting a woman after a struggle over the officer’s stun gun last year, prosecutors announced Monday.

A Harris County grand jury indicted Baytown Officer Juan Delacruz Monday for shooting Pamela Turner in the parking lot of an apartment complex where they both lived in May 2019.

Delacruz was charged with 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. Prosecutors said he’ll be given the chance to turn himself in.

Delacruz shot Turner after a struggle with the 44-year-old Black woman that a bystander captured on video. His attorney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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The footage showed Delacruz standing over Turner and reaching down to try to grab her arms. Turner then yells, “I’m pregnant.” Moments later, something flashes as she reaches her arm out toward the officer. Suddenly, Delacruz pulls away and fires five gunshots.

Police in the Houston suburb said the Hispanic officer shot Turner during an attempted arrest after she shocked him with his Taser. Court records showed three outstanding misdemeanor warrants against Turner at the time.

Ben Crump, a lawyer for Turner’s family, said last year that she was not pregnant but had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. He said Delacruz knew his neighbor suffered from mental illness and shot her from a “safe distance” away.

Lee Merritt, another lawyer for Turner’s family, said they had expected a murder charge and look forward to hearing an explanation of the grand jury’s decision from prosecutors.

Delacruz returned to work less than two weeks after the shooting, but the department said he’d be on administrative duty while the Texas Rangers and the civil rights division of the Harris County district attorney’s office investigate the shooting.

The charge against Delacruz comes after months of protests over racism and police violence in cities across the country following the death of George Floyd in May. Floyd, who was Black and grew up in Houston, died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes while he was handcuffed on the ground.

District Attorney Kim Ogg, who is up for election in November, on Monday said all the evidence was presented to the grand jury and that prosecutors will move forward with the charge it returned.

“Pam Turner’s killing was a tragedy,” Ogg said. “It is important to acknowledge that her family and the community are in pain.

Baytown police Lt. Steve Dorris asked in a statement for the community to maintain trust in the legal process and its police as the case proceeds . He did not answer questions about Delacruz’s employment status or the internal affairs investigation into the shooting.

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