On Thursday, 50 demonstrators marched through downtown Raleigh calling for justice for Daniel Turcios, a local man Raleigh Police Department officers shot and killed last month in front of his family alongside a highway. The marchers were almost all Black and brown, chanting peacefully while police blocked off intersections with motorcycles.
As the activists, many from advocacy organization El Pueblo, marched across Blount Street, the blue glow of police headlights flickered through their bodies like flames. They marched to the Capitol grounds and down Salisbury Street to the Wake County courthouse before walking off without incident.
Turcios did not need to die, his family and activists believe. Police have tried to justify the shooting by saying Turcios was potentially intoxicated and wielding a knife.
Now, more than a month after Turcios’s death, his family is still waiting for answers. Wake County district attorney Lorrin Freeman, who will be tasked with deciding whether to pursue criminal charges against the officers involved, says her decision won’t come soon.
“The autopsy and toxicology are still pending,” Freeman told the INDY last week via email. “I also have not received the SBI report and I expect it will be at least 30 days before I receive that.”
Whether intoxicated or not, Daniel Turcios was trying to get away.
As seen through the lens of officer W.B. Tapscott’s body camera in footage released earlier this month by Raleigh police, Turcios’s back was turned and he was walking—not running—away from the scene, his muscular arms hanging by his sides when Tapscott fired his taser into Turcios’s left shoulder.
Turcios probably did not understand why he was suddenly under attack. He did not speak English, and witnesses say he was knocked unconscious in the rollover crash that happened just moments earlier. He’d awoken disoriented and confused.
After a tense confrontation with his wife, Turcios turned and was walking away from the crash site, not toward anyone or anything—the officers and his family were behind him. His eyes faced the highway shoulder when burning electrical currents ripped through his back.
Turcios dropped like a bag of bricks. But he was not a weak man. Five police officers surrounded him, and Turcios, holding a small knife, attempted to get up. The struggle lasted only seconds. Less than a minute after Tapscott pulled the trigger on his taser, officer A.A. Smith fired two gunshots at Turcios, downing him again.
But for a third time, Turcios, exhibiting incredible strength, attempted to rise. Three more bullets from Smith’s gun downed him a final time.
“He was killed like a dog,” his wife Rosa Jerez—who watched along with her two sons as officers killed her husband—said in the days following Turcios’s death.
Activists are pushing for the officers involved in Turcios’s death to be held accountable. At the march last week, the handwritten placards they held were in Spanish: “Cuando Se Lee Poco Se Dispara Mucho,” which translates roughly to “When you read little, you shoot a lot.”
The mood was somber, as the crowd gathered in Moore Square during golden hour before a handful of TV crews and print journalists.
Kerwin Pittman, an advocate with Emancipate NC, had few words left to say about the killing.
“Daniel Turcios’s life mattered and it is time we address the elephant in the room, which is, if Daniel Turcios was white, we wouldn’t be here today,” Pittman said. “Disproportionately, Black and brown populations are murdered across the country at a higher rate than anybody else and what you are seeing is this unfold right here in the capital city of Raleigh, North Carolina.”
The wait has been agonizing for the family, and frustrating for community activists trying to keep public pressure on the case. They are skeptical of the judicial system’s capacity for justice: Freeman declined to charge Tapscott two years ago when he shot and killed Keith Collins, a Black man with a history of mental illness who ran when Tapscott started chasing him along Pleasant Valley Road. Tapscott shot Collins 11 times, seven after he had already collapsed to the ground.
In Spanish, Jerez described Turcios as a loving father whose only concern following the crash was getting his family to safety.
“The officers on that day did not care what I or Daniel wanted and instead treated us like suspects from the moment they arrived,” Jerez said. “Daniel should not have died. He was not a threat. We hope this will be an opportunity for police to learn from their mistakes so no other family has to suffer the tragedy that we face.”
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