It has been 20 days since a Raleigh police officer killed Daniel Turcios in front of his wife and children.
That is 480 hours for a family without a husband and father, with a lifetime to go.
It has been 12 days since the Raleigh police department issued its five-day report, claiming Turcios may have been intoxicated (autopsy results would likely show by now whether there was any alcohol or other substances in his blood at the time of death) and was swinging a knife (which advocates say was a small pocket knife, small enough that it is not visible on video taken by witnesses of the shooting).
Two officers—W.B. Tapscott, who tasered Turcios in the back as he walked away from officers, and A.A. Smith, who fired two shots at Turcios, plus three more shots five seconds later, after he had already fallen to the ground—have been placed on administrative duty as the State Bureau of Investigation reviews the incident. Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman will release the SBI’s findings, and she will ultimately decide whether any of the officers will face criminal charges.
The last two police officers to kill residents were never charged.
Typically, little information is released about the officers involved in deadly use-of-force incidents due to North Carolina’s draconian public records laws. But a recent deep dive by The News and Observer divulged a surprising amount of detail, shedding light on the men who killed Turcios.
Smith, we learned, is a 25-year-old rookie who had completed training less than a year ago.
“The fact that he’s new is even more concerning,” Emancipate NC’s Dawn Blagrove told the N&O. “Because, at a time when the training should be much more robust for new officers, we’re still seeing incidents like this.”
And just two years ago, Tapscott shot and killed Keith Collins and was never charged. Tapscott shot Collin 11 times, seven times after Collins had collapsed to the ground. A year later, the N&O reports, Tapscott was promoted to sergeant.
I could lay out more details, but you’d be better served just by reading the N&O‘s thoroughly reported story. As someone who has reported on police brutality for most of my career in journalism, I know these records are not always easy to get. Sometimes police will cite personnel statutes to issue a blanket denial of a Freedom of Information Act request, even if some information is legally allowed to be public. Stringent laws and the instinctual self-protecting culture of policing can often make obtaining information difficult. I have experienced more of these obstacles than I care to remember.
But maybe Raleigh’s new police chief Estella Patterson is doing something different. While she has a background in the smoke-and-mirrors labyrinth of police department internal affairs, she also pledged to increase transparency.
Maybe when the N&O asked for more details, Patterson let in the light—an inadequate sliver of hope for more transparency, if there’s anything hopeful at all to be had from the Turcios tragedy.
In three days, a court hearing is scheduled regarding Patterson’s petition to have the officers’ body-worn camera footage released. Whatever new details become public will be a testament to how much light Patterson plans to shine.
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Follow Senior Staff Writer Leigh Tauss on Twitter or send an email to email@example.com.