Local News

Sunday, Jul 10 2011 01:54 PM

Ex-NFL player dies after early-morning fight with Sheriff's officers

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

David “Deacon” Turner was a star running back at Shafter High School, Bakersfield College and the San Diego State University before he played three seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals from 1978 to 1980.

But he’d been down on his luck since then — out of work and repeatedly in trouble with the law throughout the ‘80’s, 90’s and 2000’s according to Kern County Superior Court online records.

On Sunday morning, the man that his former Bakersfield College coach Gerry Collis said looked like boxer Joe Frazier, got into an altercation with Kern County Sheriff’s deputies that ended when Deputy Wesley Kraft fatally shot the former NFL player outside an east Bakersfield convenience store.

“He’s the best running back I coached at BC, but heck I only coached there 27 years,” Collis said.

Collis, who’d kept in touch with Turner and tried to help him get on his feet, said his former player was hoping to get some sort of retirement from the NFL.

“He was a marvelous kid. I loved that kid,” Collis said. “He called me a couple times and I didn’t get back to him. I wish I had now.”

Turner’s brother, Moses Turner, Jr., said his brother was a humble man who focused on using his time in the NFL to care for his family back in Kern County.

When David Turner was inducted into the Bakersfield College hall of fame, there were many people there to honor him that Moses Turner had never met.

But that was, he said, the kind of person David Turner was — he brought people together, brought towns together and kept his family together.

David Turner’s nephew, Kevin Turner, said his uncle was an inspiration.

“He was the backbone of our family. He was our knight in shining armor,” Kevin Turner said.

He said David Turner was the person who would call everyone in the family and keep in touch.

“When I heard the news I was in shock. I didn’t have a word to say,” Kevin said. “I’m waiting prayerfully for some video footage.”

The family, Moses Turner said, is focusing on who David Turner said and doesn’t plan to speak about what happened Sunday morning  until they are able to talk to a lawyer.

Sheriff’s reports state that shooting occurred after deputies responded to reports of 10 to 15 juveniles asking adults to purchase alcohol and cigarettes for them at the busy store at the corner of Niles Street and Mt. Vernon Avenue.

According to Sheriff’s Lt. Bart Camps, the Fastrip is the only store in that neighborhood that is open that late and can be very busy at night and early in the morning.

When deputies arrived at the store they encountered David Lee Turner, 56, coming out of the store with his 19 year-old son, a 16-year-old juvenile and bags of items Turner had just purchased, including alcohol.

Deputies detained Turner and the two teens while they investigated the situation. According to reports, Turner first complied with deputies’ directions but then attempted to leave the area.

When deputies tried to stop Turner from leaving, he fought with them, Sheriff’s reports stated.

During the scuffle Deputy Aaron Nadal, who has worked for the Sheriff’s Department for three years, was reportedly hit in the back of the head with a bag containing two 24-ounce cans of beer.

Deputy Wesley Kraft, a four year veteran of the Sheriff’s Department, responded by drawing his handgun and firing at Turner twice.

Turner was struck and fell to the ground.

He was rushed to Kern Medical Center nearby, where he died around two hours later.

Collis said the situation just didn’t sound like the David Turner he knew.

“It is not like him. He was not a trouble-maker,” Collis said. “The deputy must have provoked him.”

Nadal was taken to Memorial Hospital where he was treated for his injuries and released.

Sheriff’s reports state the incident is under investigation by Sheriff’s detectives and Kraft has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

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