HOUSTON (AP) – A Houston-area police officer knew his neighbor suffered from mental illness and should have offered assistance when that was apparent, but instead he fatally shot the 44-year-old woman, a lawyer for the victim’s family said Thursday.
Pamela Turner had struggled with paranoid schizophrenia since her diagnosis in 2005, and may have been in crisis the night she was killed, attorney Ben Crump said during a press conference.
Turner was shot by a Baytown police officer Monday night in the parking lot of her apartment complex following a struggle that a bystander captured on video. The city’s police have said the Hispanic officer shot the African American woman during an attempted arrest after she shocked him with his Taser.
The officer – who police have not identified by name – was portrayed as the aggressor Thursday, with Turner’s family saying he approached her as she headed to her home in the same apartment complex where the officer lived.
“She was a lady who had mental health issues. What she needed was a helping hand from the police officer. Instead she got five bullets,” Crump said.
A police spokesman did not immediately respond to questions Thursday, but previously has said the officer tried to arrest Turner because he knew there were outstanding warrants against her.
In the video of the shooting, which was posted on social media, Turner is heard saying “You’re actually harassing me” and “I’m actually walking to my house” to the officer as he tries to arrest her. The pair can be seen struggling and Turner falls to the ground. They continue to scuffle and she says, “Why? Why?” and then “I’m pregnant.”
Moments later, something flashes as Turner reaches her arm out toward the officer. Suddenly, he pulls away from her, steps back and fires five gunshots.
Police have said that autopsy results show Turner was not pregnant, but the autopsy report has not been released.
Crump said the family is having its own autopsy done to determine the truth. He also suggested Turner might have claimed to be pregnant to protect herself because she feared for her life, or due to confusion brought on by her mental illness and the recent birth of her granddaughter.
Her daughter, 22-year-old Chelsie Rubin, sputtered through tears Thursday as she described learning that her mother had been killed just days after she gave birth to her second child.
“I still can’t believe my momma isn’t there,” Rubin said. “I’m still waiting for her to call me every day, like she did.”
Rubin said she asked a Baytown police officer sometime after the shooting if the department was aware of her mother’s illness and was told they were.
Bleiberg reported from Dallas.
Associated Press writer Juan A. Lozano contributed reporting from Houston.