New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has announced he will investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of Raynette Turner, a mother of eight who died while in custody of the Mount Vernon police July 27.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order in June, temporarily giving Schneiderman the authority to investigate, and, if necessary, prosecute the police-involved deaths of unarmed civilians.
“My office’s Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit will investigate the death of Raynette Turner, consistent with Executive Order No. 147, and a conforming order to be issued by the governor at my request,” the attorney general stated.
Turner, 42, reportedly died in a holding cell while awaiting arraignment on charges of shoplifting. According to ThinkProgress.org, she has been the fifth black woman to die in police custody during the month of July.
Turner reportedly was returned to a police-controlled holding cell after vomiting in a court holding area Thursday. She’d also spent two hours in the hospital the night before, and had a history of medical conditions including hypertension and bariatric surgery.
An autopsy is currently pending.
“Today, the attorney general informed my office that he intends to investigate and, if necessary, prosecute any unlawful acts arising from the death of Raynette Turner, who died last week while in the custody of the Mount Vernon Police Department,” Gov. Cuomo said in a statement. “Ms. Turner’s death is a tragedy for her loved ones, and it raises questions not just from her family, but from her neighbors, elected officials, community members and the media – questions that deserve answers. This kind of situation is the reason that I signed Executive Order 147 last month, because the justice system must have the trust of our communities. With the attorney general as special prosecutor leading an independent investigation, I believe that we can begin to restore trust, eliminate any perceived conflicts of interest, and let the community know, once and for all, that justice truly is blind.”
Cuomo’s appointment of Schneiderman as special a prosecutor has come after grand juries recently failed to indict officers in the killings of unarmed black men in several states across the country, including New York.