BAYTOWN, Texas - Opening statements began Thursday in the trial of Baytown police officer Juan Delacruz, who shot and killed a woman outside her apartment in May 2019. Delacruz is charged with aggravated assault by a public servant with a deadly weapon.
Investigators say Pamela Turner, a Black woman, was unarmed when Delacruz tried to tase and arrest her for outstanding warrants. Turner instead stole his taser and Delacruz shot her, killing her.
Three witnesses took the stand Thursday. The majority of the questioning from both sides focused heavily on Officer Delacruz’s taser and whether shooting Turner was considered justifiable.
During opening statements, prosecutors Timothy Adams said that Turner’s death shouldn’t have happened. The defense attorney, Greg Cagle, chose not to make one.
The first witness called to the stand was the property manager of the Brixton apartment complex in Baytown, where both Turner and Officer Juan Delacruz lived.
The second was TX DPS Ranger Eric Lopez, who served as the lead investigator for the deadly shooting.
Delacruz’s body cam footage from that night was then introduced as evidence and played repeatedly for jurors.
In the video, Delacruz was seen trying to restrain Turner for outstanding warrants when she does not comply.
Turner can also be heard in the video saying, "I am walking out my house. Stop! You’re actually harassing me. Why? Why? I did nothing to you. Why are you getting out your taser?"
Ranger Lopez was asked by prosecutors to narrate and describe the body cam video. Lopez testified that Delacruz grabbed his taser, which went off twice but appeared ineffective.
He continued that Turner then appeared to steal the officer’s taser and aimed it towards Delacruz’s groin but says it's unclear if he was ever struck. Delacruz then jolts backward and fires his gun five times at Turner, three of those bullets striking her, killing her.
Lopez testified that he believes the use of force by Delacruz was reasonable.
However, the third witness, John Stanley, use of force expert and former Los Angeles Sheriff’s Sergeant, said he believed Delacruz’s use of force was not reasonable.
Stanley testified that Turner and Delacruz were approximately 21 feet apart after Delacruz jumped back, based on the total length of the wires from the deployed taser that connected them. Stanley said that a safe distance was already created between the two and therefore, Delacruz's reaction by firing was not justified because he had already gotten out of harm’s way.
Turner’s family reacted passionately on Thursday, as part of day 1 of the trial, during a news conference during the trial.
"There is no way that anyone in my family can sit by and have a normal happy day any longer. You have stripped that away from us, Juan Delacruz, and I hate you. I do," said Chelsea Rubin, Turner's daughter.
"I pray that this jury is able to listen to the facts, pay attention to the evidence. I don't care about the picture that Cagle is trying to paint. I want you to listen to the facts. Watch the video, pay attention to what you're seeing, not to what is being told to you to maybe think about if it's a possibility or not," Rubin continued.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump has been representing the family.
"I can't even imagine the emotions running through children. When this happened to her mother, she had just given birth," said Crump. "Her baby was three days old. You bring life into the world which is such a joyous occasion, and then you're hit with the shocking news that the person who gave your life is unjustifiably and tragically taken away."
Video of the walk-through and interviews with Delacruz from that night were also played in court. Delacruz is currently employed with the Baytown Police Department on paid administrative leave.
The trial is set to resume Friday at 8:30 a.m.