Raynette Turner: The Latest Black Woman to Die in Police Custody

By Kenrya Rankin Jul 30, 2015

On July 27, 2015, Raynette Turner was found dead in a Mount Vernon, New York, holding cell. The 42-year-old black woman was arrested for allegedly stealing crab legs at wholesale food store Restaurant Depot and had been in the cell for two days waiting for her arraignment. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sent a team of investigators to Mount Vernon to look into her death, per Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent executive order, which compels him to investigate “certain matters involving the death of an unarmed civilian, whether in custody or not, caused by a law-enforcement officer.”

Turner was taken into custody at around 3:00 pm on Saturday. After saying that she didn’t feel well on Sunday, she was transported to Montefiore Mount Vernon Hospital between 7:30 pm and 8:00 pm. She was treated for high blood pressure and the ambulance returned her to the cell just after 10:00 pm. She was last seen awake between noon and 1:00 pm on Monday, and found dead at 2:00 pm when officers arrived to take her for her arraignment.

Herman Turner, her husband of 23 years, said he waited for her in court until 4:00 pm, when he was told that her arraignment would be postponed because she wasn’t feeling well. He didn’t find out she was dead until the next day, when detectives came to his home.

“No one said anything to me about my wife was downstairs, dead. They just let me sit in the courtroom all day long, waiting for her to come and be seen by the judge,” he told The Journal News. “I’m angry. Very angry. Somebody needs to pay. Somebody really needs to pay for this. I’m sorry, I’m not going to let this rest.” Turner also leaves behind eight children, ages 8 to 21.

The initial autopsy results were inconclusive, according to Lucian Chalfen, a spokesperson for the Westchester County District Attorney. “We’re awaiting toxicology and microbiology which could take a number of weeks. Until those results come in, the (autopsy) report is incomplete.” 

Turner’s husband is seeking an independent autopsy. He says his wife dealt with high blood pressure and depression, but that both conditions were under control. There was “nothing physical wrong with my wife, whatsoever,” Turner said. “She was healthy, very healthy. It’s a big shock that she died in jail.”

Turner’s is the latest in a string of deaths of women of color in police custody, including Sandra Bland and Sarah Lee Circle Bear