Local News

Tuesday, Jul 12 2011 02:54 PM

Turmoil remains in wake of shooting

BY JAMES BURGER, Californian staff writer jburger@bakersfield.com

Kern County Sheriff's Department officials are investigating the circumstances surrounding the officer-involved shooting death of former NFL player David Lee "Deacon" Turner, 56 -- a process that is being closely watched by members of Turner's family, who are praying for justice.

The family's sorrow overflowed into a confrontation between members of Turner's family and law enforcement officers at Kern Medical Center in the early hours of Sunday, according to law enforcement reports.

Family members and friends arriving at the hospital learned that the Shafter High School star and former Cincinnati Bengals player died after being shot just before 1 a.m. Sunday by a Kern County Sheriff's deputy at a Fastrip convenience store near the hospital.

According to reports from KMC security officers, hospital CEO Paul Hensler said, the family was distraught when Kern County Coroner's office staff informed them of Turner's death.

"They became irate," Hensler said.

Someone in the group mentioned to hospital security that there was a gun in the parking lot, Hensler said.

Coroner's officials calling law enforcement to respond. Officers from the California Highway Patrol, Bakersfield Police Department and Kern County Sheriff's Department arrived, Hensler said.

The first deputy to arrive was "rushed" by family members, according to hospital security reports provided to Hensler.

The deputy responded by drawing his service weapon on the crowd, according to the security reports. But the deputy did not fire and the situation was controlled as other law enforcement officers arrived.

Two family members were arrested as a result of the confrontation, according to reports from the Sheriff's Department.

David Turner's son Ahmod Turner, 25, was arrested on suspicion of making criminal threats and participation in a criminal street gang.

His daughter Whitney Turner, 24, was arrested on suspicion of battery on a peace officer and making criminal threats after allegedly striking one of the deputies in the face.

Both remained in custody Monday evening.

Questions linger

Turner was shot after deputies, who were responding to reports of juveniles asking adults to buy alcohol for them, detained Turner and later confronted him when he tried to leave.

A deputy was reportedly hit in the head by a bag containing two 24-ounce beers, according to the Sheriff's Department.

Then a second deputy, Wesley Kraft, drew his handgun and fired twice at Turner. Turner was hit by the gunfire and died just before 3 a.m. at KMC.

Family members, talking to KBAK Channel 29 on Sunday, said they have serious concerns about the shooting.

Turner's daughter Jerrica Cor-Dova told the television station that Turner's 19-year-old son, who was with Turner when the shooting took place, said his father asked deputies if he was under arrest and, when they said he was not, turned to leave.

Cor-Dova told KBAK that the son saw deputies knock Turner to the ground, the beer cans shatter, and his father shot.

Sunday evening, talking to The Californian, Turner's brother Moses Turner Jr. and two nephews of David Turner said the family was trying to focus on the good man they knew and were looking to hire legal counsel.

Nephew Veelester Turner said, "I want justice."

Kern County Superior Court records show Turner had a long, rocky relationship with the law.

But Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said the criminal record of individuals shot by deputies has little bearing on the investigation into whether officers were justified in using deadly force.

"Because someone has a criminal history does not make them subject for a shooting," Youngblood said. "I'm not talking about this shooting -- I'm talking about all shootings."

What is most important to investigations of officer-involved shootings, Youngblood said, is what took place at the time of the shooting, "not what somebody did a year ago."

Criminal record

David Turner's criminal record in Kern County goes back much further than a few years, Kern County Superior Court records show.

In 1986 Turner pleaded no contest, along with his brother John Turner and two other men, to a charge of receiving stolen property.

Law enforcement officers arrested three of the men after they tried to sell thousands of dollars of power tools -- mowers, trimmers and edgers -- for $100 to the brother of the man who had reported the equipment stolen, the police records filed in court say.

David Turner did not try to sell the equipment, but some of the missing power tools were discovered in his apartment, and he was charged with the crime.

He told law enforcement that, when John Turner showed up at his home with the equipment, Turner suspected the tools were stolen and ordered his brother to take them away. But not all of the equipment had been moved out of his home.

David Turner also pleaded no contest, in cases in 1998 and 2002, to felony possession of cocaine, the records say.

In 1998 he was stopped by California Highway Patrol officers for a broken headlight and, when officers smelled alcohol on his breath, he was detained, given a breath test and searched. The search turned up .11 milligrams of cocaine in a piece of paper tucked into his sock, police reports say.

In 2002 Turner was stopped on the street by two Bakersfield Police Department officers who asked him if they could search him.

Turner allowed the search and officers found .42 milligrams of rock cocaine, according to court documents.

In police reports, Turner was quoted as telling police that he smoked rock cocaine once a week and had been doing that since 1978, the first year he played in the NFL.

Turner fought that charge, claiming the police search was illegal, but ultimately pleaded no contest after a previous felony conviction was dismissed from consideration as a prior during sentencing, avoiding a three strikes conviction.

Turner also pleaded no contest to a number of misdemeanor crimes over the years -- including petty theft, assault with a deadly weapon, spousal abuse and driving while under the influence -- according to the Kern County Superior Court website.

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