Episode 34 - Seeking Justice for Pamela Turner

<span style="display: inline-block; width: 0px; overflow: hidden; line-height: 0;" data-mce-type="bookmark" class="mce_SELRES_start"> </span>

Transcript, Web links and Credits below.


Hey Everybody!

I promised that every week we’d do at least one good news episode, and today is going to have to count for that. I have one very tragic story to report on out of Houston — and we have an ACTION STEP we need you all to take with us on that story. But I do have a powerful, heartwarming good story to share with you. It really touched my heart.

Let’s dig in.

This is Shaun King and you are listening to (The Breakdown)!


Earlier this week, you may have seen an absolutely horrible video of a police shooting that happened in Baytown, Texas, right outside of Houston. Just a few hours after it happened, in the middle of the night, people from Houston starting sending me the video. And it’s awful.

But today, for a few minutes, I need to start with the story of Pamela Turner long before this shooting. Because the police and even the local media there in Houston, as they always do, have tried to smear this woman and her family — making it out like she was some type of hardened criminal. She wasn’t.

In fact, she was the exact opposite. She was a kind, sweet soul. Her family told me that she was a loving and gentle mother and grandmother. She loved her family dearly and they loved her.

For over twenty years, Pamela worked at a local hospital and rose all the way up through the ranks to become a unit manager. And like tens of millions of Americans, Pamela and her family noticed in the early 2000’s that she was struggling with her mental health.

The month of May, as you may know, is actually Mental Health Awareness Month. Finally, in 2005, Pamela was properly diagnosed with schizophrenia. But she was high functioning in society. She received treatment. And through the years her family loved her through it. It was hard. And many of you who are listening who may have your own mental health challenges — or maybe have them in your family — you know that it’s a day by day, even an hour by hour effort to manage and treat and survive and live with it.

And here’s the thing — everybody in her neighborhood knew Pamela. Most knew of her challenges. And what we’ve learned is that the officer who shot and killed her — shooting her right in her face — he knew Pamela and knew that she suffered from mental health episodes. And I’ve been told over and over again by residents of this neighborhood that this officer harassed residents for sport.

And that’s exactly what he was doing on the evening he confronted Pamela. She didn’t commit a crime. It appeared she was having a mental health episode. She was wandering the neighborhood as if she was lost. And what she needed was to go to a hospital. I asked the local police department and the DA’s office just a few moments ago what Pamela Turner was actually being arrested for — and they had nothing. I asked what crime they believed she committed — and they had nothing. The officer later lied and said he was arresting Pamela for having an outstanding warrant. That’s not true. You don’t effect the arrests on warrants by yourself in the middle of the night. He was out there harassing Pamela. Pamela was never in trouble with the law. She was not violent. And had never spent more than a night in jail her entire life.

And here’s the thing — it’s always, 10 times out of 10, going to be a bad idea, for a single male officer, who has absolutely no substantive training on mental health, in the middle of the night, by himself to try to confront and arrest a woman in the middle of a mental health crisis.

Every city and county and state in the United States needs to create an entirely different mental health department — with emergency staff, first responders, and more — that respond to mental health challenges. Because what we have found is that in some states, nearly 50% of the people killed by police were unarmed and killed in the middle of a mental health emergency. And because America’s police have been trained that their guns are an answer to every problem, a woman who needed a doctor instead got shot in the face.

It’d literally be like me asking you to make a sandwich and you pull out your gun because you are going to make the sandwich with the gun. Or I ask you to build a house and you pull out a gun because you are going to use a gun as your main tool to build the house. A gun is never the tool that a mental health crisis requires. A stun gun or Taser are not the right tools for a mental health crisis. In fact, studies show that Tasers ALWAYS make a mental health crisis worse. What was needed were calm, trained, and experienced professionals, but instead Pamela got a Taser and a gun.

I’m tired of saying this, but in most white communities, Pamela would’ve received treatment. To be clear, cops will shoot and kill a white person in a mental health crisis, I’ve seen it many times. But it’s rare. Pamela needed an ambulance and some medicine.

And that leads me to our first ACTION STEP for the day.

(Action Step Music)

Two of my best friends, Attorneys Ben Crump and Lee Merritt are representing the family in this case. And they’ve asked us to help them with something simple. The Texas Rangers are investigating this case right now, but they almost always protect the police.

We want the Harris County DA, Kim Ogg, to conduct her own investigation and present the evidence before a grand jury, but she’s not going to do that if we don’t demand it.

So I am going to give you some information, ok?

Call (713) 274-5800 and ask to speak to someone in DA Kim Ogg’s office. Let them know that you want to request that she opens her own investigation into the murder of Pamela Turner and present her case before a grand jury.

You can also email her directly right now at DA@DAO.HCTX.NET

And after you do all of that, email me at our new email address: TheBreakdown@TheNorthStar.com to let me know how it goes, ok?

As always, be respectful but persistent.


Today, I want to close with a beautiful, heartwarming college graduation story. I’ve been wanting to share this with you all all week long. 70 years ago, all the way back in 1949, Elizabeth Barker Johnson graduated college from Winston-Salem State University, but was unable to attend her graduation because she had already become a school teacher and couldn’t find a substitute.

Well – I want to play two beautiful clips for you. In the first, it tells her story the days before the university gives her her degree.

And the second is from the actual graduation.

(First clip)

And here is the clip from her graduation.

(Second clip)

Thank you all for making it all the way through this episode of The Breakdown!

If you haven’t already subscribed to our podcast, we’ll be right back here every single weekday, breaking down important news stories and issues, and we’d love for you to subscribe on your favorite podcast apps like Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Please share this podcast with your friends and family. Our next goal is to get to 100,000 subscribers and we won’t get there without you! Have you left a review yet? On Apple Podcasts we now have over 5,000 5-star reviews, but we’re aiming for 10,000 — so we still want to hear from you so please leave your best review when you get time.

Thank you so much to the nearly 30,000 founding members of The North Star whose generosity even makes this podcast possible. Love y’all and appreciate you so much.

If you love this podcast and want to support our work – or want to see the show notes and transcript for each episode — we’d love it if you considered becoming a founding member of our community at TheNorthStar.com. There we not only have our podcasts, but hundreds of original articles and stories and commentaries from some of the leading scholars and thinkers and journalists in the world.

Lastly, a shout out to our Associate Producer Lyssandra and Podcasting Director and Senior Producer, Willis, for their hard work on this and every episode.

Take care everybody.



Produced by Willis Polk II

Additional Instrumentation by Christian “Idrys” Shannon, Lance "Lance Fury" Powlis, Markeith Black & Willie “Chuck” Shivers

Additional Engineering by Amond “AJ” Jackson for Salem Psalms Library

Additional Vocals by Garnett “Natti” Bush & Jason Coffey

Scratches by Kenny “DJ FlipFlop” Vanderberg

Contains samples from:

“Who Are You?I” by The Off Daze