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Death of Raynette Turner, First Test of AG’s Office Since Gov. Cuomo’s Signing of Executive Order

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“Members of our Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit are on the ground in Westchester reviewing the matter to determine if it falls within the parameters of the executive order.” –Eric Soufer, spokesman for Attorney General Schneiderman

With all the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement around the county the last few years and the high-profile case of Sandra Bland who died in police custody in Texas, all eyes will now be on the City of Mount Vernon and the Attorney General’s office to see how this will play out after Gov. Cuomo signed the executive order giving AG Schneiderman, special prosecutor powers.

The recent death of Raynette Turner, who also died in police custody, Monday in Mount Vernon, will be the first real test for Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, since Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed the executive order. The mother of 8, was arrested on petty larceny charges and taken to MVPD. She was taken to the hospital by police “cleared” by the hospital, and returned into the custody of police. The following day, she was found unresponsive and subsequently declared dead in the holding cell.

“Well, it’s “show time,” Just weeks ago a SPECIAL PROSECUTOR” was appointed by Gov. Cuomo to investigate and prosecute police for the murders of unarmed individuals,” Danette Chavis, Founder of – National Action Against Police Brutality and Murder shares with BW. “The recent death of 43-year-old Raynette Turner, who died in police custody on Monday will be investigated by his office. No information as of yet has been made available as to the “cause of death” and the incident reports of police were incomplete at the time of the press conference. The special prosecutors office has sent investigators to the Mount Vernon Police Department to gather further information. This falls within the jurisdiction of the special prosecutor, who has a duty to act, investigate and bring charges where necessary. The value of “a special prosecutor” will be closely scrutinized throughout this investigation, while others are vowing to make him do the job, which he’s been hired to do!”

BlackLivesMatter protesters, community activists as well as a few black fraternal law enforcement organizations, like BLEA – Blacks In Law Enforcement of America, feel the signing of the executive order is more symbolism without substance. They haven’t been marching and protesting for just a special prosecutor, but an INDEPENDENT Special Prosecutor. Asking for an independent investigation be done in cases where black lives are lost at the hands of the police, like the independent investigation by Maryland State Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby, who brought charges on the Baltimore Six, that were involved in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray.

“In the wake of so many police involved deaths whether in custody or on the streets, the time is now for a national movement to assign a special prosecutor for all related police deaths. This case will be a big test for Governor Cuomo, if he has any desire to run for the office of the President of the United States in the future,” Corey Pegues, a former NYPD Deputy Inspector and currently the CEO and founder of Corey Pegues Enterprises shares with BW.

There are an array of emotions from Mt. Vernon residents who never expected something like this to happen here. While the spotlight is on the city of Mt. Vernon and the MVPD, some current and former officers of the MVPD feel the policies and procedures of the department are antiquated.

“First and foremost, My prayers and condolences go out to the family of Mrs. Raynette Turner,” retired MVPD Sgt. Anthony Mitchell tells BW. “My hope is that integrity, accountability and transparency will be the guiding force of this investigation, bring it to a swift and accurate conclusion. I truly hope the MVPD, City Council and the Mayor’s office will thoroughly, review, update and enforce the Police department’s appropriate policy and procedures necessary to follow to ensure that a tragic incident such as this never happens again because a loss of life should have never occur. Under no circumstances should custody equal death, in the City of MOUNT VERNON OR ANYWHERE ELSE IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.”

Then there are many who feel the hospital that cleared and released Turner, should be looked into as well, feeling she should have never been released, including one close personal friend who wanted to remain anonymous.

“She is a close friend, the hospital should have kept her when she went in, that’s where the blame lies and truth be told she been sick ever since she had her surgery.”

Some feel we need to go a step further for real justice to take place;

“Mount Vernon is on the precipice of a possible historic case. Isn’t this first since Cuomo signed that law. Let us not sleep, and independent medical examiner is needed,” Frank ‘Sha’ Franciois, Community Activist Organizer, shares with BW.

“This case unfortunately is the tip of the iceberg,” Shawyn, a Mt Vernon resident says in a Facebook comment. “The MVPD recently experienced a great departure of senior officers of color, internal local and federal lawsuits filed by officers of color, injured officers of color denied disability while white officers get disability for the same injuries under the same circumstances. If we had a white commissioner and white mayor, there would be an uproar.”

In a prepared statement, Mt. Vernon Mayor Ernest D. Davis, who joins those in the sorrow for the death of Turner, promises a swift and thorough investigation.

“Any time anyone loses a loved one, under any circumstance, it can be cause for concern. My condolences to the family of Raynette Turner.
I can say at this time there are a number of law enforcement agencies investigating this matter, therefore we are unable to make more detailed statements that may compromise the investigation. We assure you that this investigation will be expeditious and thorough.
This a time for mourning. I have been contacted by people who wish to help defray the cost of funeral arrangements as well as others concerned with the situation and will be speaking with the family.
Politics aside, I call on all to respect the life of this young woman. I want to thank the citizens of Mount Vernon and from all over for their patience while a thorough investigation moves forward.”

Feud-master675The bottom line, how this investigation is handled will be the first real test of AG Schneiderman and Gov. Cuomo, since the signing of the executive order. Westchester County, New York State and rest the country will be watching. One must ask is the AG’s office is only here for show because of the high-profile of this case being the second black woman who died in police custody in the county in a matter of weeks? He hasn’t stepped foot in Westchester County in any of the other cases where backs lives were lost at the hands of the police like Dario Tena and Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., just to name few. There are still many questions to be answered, I guess we will all have to wait and see what happens.

“We are in a state of emergency,” shares Sandy Bernabei, Founding member AntiRacist Alliance and President NASW NYC Chapter. “America has lost its moral compass with the frequency and numbers of black lives lost at the hands of law-enforcement with little response from the white community. Our collective humanity is at stake. It is time for white America to wake up from our sleep state and confront the nightmare that communities of color are living in. Our silence is consent. Black lives matter! Now is the time for action. Call President Obama – we need a national intervention to put a stop to unaccountable police killings in communities of color.”

“The Council’s sincere condolences go out the family. A Mount Vernon loss for one, is a Mount Vernon loss for all,” Mt. Vernon City Council President Marcus A. Griffith tells BW. “I do not believe the AG will find any wrongdoings on the part of the Mt Vernon Police. However, we should open the doors for any and all review. No entity is above criticism when it comes to the handling of people’s lives.”

AJ Woodson

AJ Woodson is the Editor-In-Chief of Black Westchester and Co-Owner of Urban Soul Media Group, the parent company, Host & Producer of the People Before Politics Radio Show. AJ is a Father, Brother, An Author, Journalism Fellow (Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism), Hip-Hop Artist - one third of the legendary underground rap group JVC FORCE known for the single Strong Island, Radio Personality, Hip-Hop Historian, Documentarian, Activist, Criminal Justice Advocate and Freelance Journalist whose byline has appeared in several print publications and online sites including The Source, Vibe, the Village Voice, Upscale,,, Rolling Out Newspaper, Daily Challenge Newspaper, Spiritual Minded Magazine, Word Up! Magazine, On The Go Magazine and several others.

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