The 911 caller said Daniel Turcios appeared drunk when the car he was traveling in with his family crashed on the shoulder of a Raleigh highway.

When police arrived on scene, body camera footage shows a witness pointing at Turcios, who was holding his 7-year-old son in his arms. The English speaking bystander told officers, “He’s probably intoxicated.”

Turcios did not speak English. He could not dispute this assertion.

This statement was repeated by countless media outlets reporting on the January 11 incident that ended with Turcios shot dead by police in front of his wife and two children. It was repeated again by Police Chief Estella Patterson in her five-day report.

Two months later, an autopsy of Turcios’s body proved what his family has insisted all along: that Turcios was sober when police rushed the scene, tasered him, and shot him five times. No alcohol or drugs other than nicotine and caffeine were found in his system.

The news was broke on a Friday afternoon at the tail-end of an exhaustive weekly news cycle. What should have been a major correction instead read as a footnote as the prevailing narrative parroted by law enforcement and the media was already fully saturated in the public mind. Countless folks who had read about or viewed the graphic footage of Turcios’s killing had already decided the shooting was lawful after reading that a knife-wielding Turcios seemed drunk.

But he wasn’t drunk. His family says Turcios had been knocked unconscious by the rollover crash and woke up disoriented. And due to a serious language barrier, police were unable to communicate with Turcios, who did not understand their commands, compounding the  confusion at the chaotic scene.

“Because of the outsized power that law enforcement has to create narratives that make them look least culpable at best, and at worst, degrade and defame victims of state sanctioned violence, it is even more critical that we are as a community are very skeptical of initial reports from law enforcement,” says Dawn Blagrove of Emancipate NC, an organization that pushes for criminal justice reform. “This family has been ridiculed, and has been told that the harm that was caused to them was justified based solely on false information that was spewed by RPD.”

The autopsy showed Tucios died as a result of five gunshot wounds—in his chest, torso, and right thigh.

District Attorney Lorrin Freeman, who will decide whether to criminally charge the officers that killed Turcios, declined to comment on whether Turcios’s sobriety at the time of his death will factor into her decision.

Freeman told the INDY she expects a final report from the State Bureau of Investigation to be completed by the end of the month.

“There are a number of reports outstanding including interviews from witnesses on scene.  As you are probably aware, there were a lot of witnesses on scene,” Freeman said in an email. “I believe all interviews have been concluded.  The reports of these interviews are still in process.”

Two years ago, Freeman declined to charge police officer W.B. Tapscott after he killed Keith Collins, a Black man with a history of mental health issues. Tapscott fired 11 shots at Collins, seven after Collins had already collapsed to the ground.

Tapscott initiated the use of force against Turcios by firing his taser at Turcios’s back as he attempted to walk away from officers. The autopsy reported Turcios was actually struck twice by the taser as his body had two impact marks. As police surrounded and attempted to restrain Turcios, who held a small knife in his hand, officer A.A. Smith fired five shots from his gun at Turcios over five seconds.

RPD told ABC11 last week that no officers were injured by Turcios’s pocketknife. Turcios’s characterization as a “knife-weilding man” was played up heavily in early reports of the incident by RPD and the media.

Blagrove says Raleigh Police Department should issue a public apology to Turcios’s family, and criminal charges should be levied against the officers.

“This family is owed the opportunity to take their case before a jury of their peers and have an independent determination of whether or not [these officers] committed a crime,” Blagrove says. “The family has suffered economically and psychologically. That trauma was compounded by the lies and this defamation that was spread mostly by RPD.

“This family deserves to be compensated for the harm RPD caused and more importantly, RPD needs to feel the economic pain that is associated with making these kinds of egregious breaches of trust.”

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