The autopsy report confirmed what her neighbors said happened in an apartment complex outside of Houston, Texas. Pamela Turner, a forty-four-year-old grandmother of three, was on the ground, trying to connect with the humanity of the police officer who stood over her by screaming that she was pregnant.
Officer Juan Delacruz ignored her pleas, stepped back, unholstered his gun, and shot five times. Three of his bullets ripped through Turner’s body, ending her life. One entered her left cheek, shattering her face. Another tore through her left chest, and the last, her abdomen. The medical examiner ruled it a homicide.
What happened next had been rehearsed many times before. The police put Delacruz on a mandatory three-day administrative (paid) leave; the family secured the services of civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump; the Reverend Al Sharpton delivered the eulogy; and a well-organized and well-attended demonstration forced the police to extend their comments beyond the typical talking points.
In the five years since Mike Brown Jr was murdered and the streets of Ferguson, Missouri erupted, police across the United States have killed more than four thousand people, a quarter of them African American. Five years later, do Black Lives Matter? Confronted by an array of internal and external obstacles, “the movement” has stalled even as a white supremacist rules from the White House.
Mike Brown’s murder and the uprising it inspired cracked open a period of organizing and protest that boldly aimed to end the reign of police terror in black poor and working-class communities around the country. For those who think that kind of language is hyperbole, consider the conclusions reached by a 2016 Chicago police commission convened by former mayor Rahm Emanuel after the vicious murder of Black teenager Laquan McDonald by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke: