The Police Say David Lee Turner's Shooting Was Justified, but Their Account Suggests Otherwise


Former NFL player David Lee Turner, whose funeral was on Saturday, appears to have been acting in self-defense when he was shot and killed by a Kern County, California, sheriff's deputy outside a Bakersfield convenience store on July 10. As Mike Riggs noted last week, a Kern County Sheriff's Department review board concluded that the shooting was justified. But even the official police account, as described by The Bakersfield Californian, indicates that Turner was not the aggressor during the fatal encounter:

Turner, 56, was shot early July 10 at the Fastrip on Niles Street and Mount Vernon Avenue. Deputies had responded to the Fastrip for reports of juveniles asking adults to buy alcohol for them, the sheriff's department has reported.

[Sheriff Donny] Youngblood said Monday that deputies had detained Turner at the scene and searched him. Turner at first complied, but became increasingly agitated.

Turner stopped complying and walked away from the deputies, Youngblood said. A deputy, trying to stop Turner, struck him in the leg with a baton.

Turner then raised a bag he was carrying that contained two 24-ounce cans of beer and swung it "tomahawk-style" down on Deputy Aaron Nadal's head, Youngblood said. Nadal went into a defensive position and Turner again began raising the bag—which weighed more than three pounds—to strike Nadal.

Kraft pulled his gun and fired twice, hitting Turner. Turner was taken to Kern Medical Center and died about two hours later.

In other words, Turner was walking away when "a deputy" (perhaps Nadal) assaulted him. If he was "detained" and therefore not free to go, what were the grounds for stopping him? Was he suspected of a crime or under arrest? Apparently not, because surely the police would have mentioned that by now. It does not help their credibility that what happened after the deputy attacked Turner is missing from the convenience store's security camera footage:

A surveillance video released by the Sheriff's Department shows Turner walking through the parking lot of the convenience store with two other individuals, stopping as deputies drove up and walking over to them to be searched.

After the search Turner picks up the bags he set down and turns to walk away. One deputy follows him and can be seen striking Turner while the other deputy moves to keep the other individuals—who included Turner's 19-year-old son, according to reports—back from the confrontation.

But the video cuts out just before the fatal shooting, omitting a crucial six-second segment.

Youngblood said the video was on a motion sensor and the camera shut off for a brief time until additional motion triggered it to start recording again.

Turner's family is planning to file a wrongful death suit.

Addendum: Gray Ghost points us to the surveillance video: