HOUSTON – A Texas police officer has been charged with assault for killing a woman after arguing over the officer’s stun gun last year, prosecutors said Monday.
A Harris County grand jury indicted Baytown agent Juan Delacruz on Monday for shooting Pamela Turner in the parking lot of an apartment complex where they both lived in May 2019.
Delacruz has been charged with aggravated assault by an official, a crime that could lead to a five-year sentence to life in prison if convicted. Prosecutors said he would have the option to surrender.
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg called Turner’s death a tragedy on Monday.
“It’s important to recognize that his family and the community are suffering,” said Ogg, who is due for re-election in November.
Greg Cagle, Delacruz’s lawyer, said he believed the case against his client was politically motivated.
“There is no fact that would justify a criminal charge against the officer,” he said.
Delacruz shot Turner down after a fight with the 44-year-old black woman that a viewer filmed.
The footage shows Delacruz standing over Turner and bending down to try and grab his arms. Turner then shouts, “I’m pregnant.” Moments later, something flashes as she reaches for the officer. Suddenly, Delacruz walks away and fires five shots.
Houston suburban police said the Hispanic officer shot Turner during an attempted arrest after shocking him with his Taser. Court records showed three outstanding tort warrants against Turner at the time.
Delacruz was defending himself when he shot Turner, Cagle said.
“When someone takes a policeman’s taser and then uses it against him, the policeman has no choice but lethal force. This is how officers are trained, ”he said.
Ben Crump, an attorney for Turner’s family, said last year that she was not pregnant but was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. He said Delacruz knew his neighbor was mentally ill and shot her from a “safe distance”.
Devon Jacob, another lawyer for Turner’s family, said that “the force used by Delacruz was not objectively reasonable”.
Delacruz returned to work less than two weeks after the shooting, but the department said he would 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 indictment against Delacruz comes after months of protests against racism and police violence in cities across the country following the death of George Floyd in May. Floyd, who was black and raised in Houston, died after a white Minneapolis policeman rested his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes while he was handcuffed to the ground.
Baytown Police Lt. Steve Dorris in a statement called on the community to maintain confidence in the court process and its police as the case progresses. He did not respond to questions about Delacruz’s employment status or the internal affairs investigation into the shooting.
Delacruz, who has worked with the Baytown Police Department since 2008, was not disciplined after the shooting, Cagle said.
Jacob said Delacruz’s return to service was an act of “willful indifference.”
Bleiberg reported from Dallas.
Follow Jake Bleiberg on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jzbleiberg and Juan A. Lozano at https://twitter.com/juanlozano70.
Jake Bleiberg et Juan A. Lozano, The Associated Press