MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. –New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office has taken over the investigation into the death of Raynette Turner, a mother of eight who died in a holding cell while in police custody in Mount Vernon last week.
On Monday, Schneiderman announced that his office would take over the investigation into Turner’s death, acting under an order issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo just last month that requires the Attorney General to investigate police-involved deaths of unarmed citizens.
Under Executive Order 147, Schneiderman is granted to power to investigate “certain matters involving the death of an unarmed civilian, in custody or not, caused by a law enforcement officer.”
“Turner’s death is a tragedy for her loved ones, and it raises questions, not just from her family, but from her neighbors, elected officials, community members and the media – questions that deserve answers,” Cuomo said in a statement. “This kind of situation is the reason that I signed Executive Order 147 last month, because the justice system must have the trust of our communities.
“With the Attorney General as a special prosecutor leading an independent investigation, I believe that we can begin to restore trust, eliminate any perceived conflicts of interest and let the community know, once and for all, that justice truly is blind.”
Following the announcement that the Attorney General’s office would be taking over the investigation, Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore, who has been active in the investigation, pledged her office’s resources to assist Schneiderman as the investigation into Turner’s death intensifies.
“The governor has expanded Executive Order 147 to include an investigation into any unlawful acts or omissions in connection with the death of Raynette Turner on July 27,” she stated. “We will work with the Attorney General and his staff to ensure a smooth transition of this matter.
“From the outset, the Attorney General has been apprised of and fully brief on the statues of the investigation, and going forward, we will be available to assist the Attorney General as appropriate.”
Turner, 42 had a history of hypertension and had undergone bariatric surgery for weight loss. She was awaiting arraignment on a shoplifting charge when she fell ill and was pronounced dead on Monday at approximately 3 p.m. She spent time at Montefiore Mount Vernon Hospital Sunday night before being returned to her cell where she died.
Initial autopsy results that were released this week were inconclusive. The official cause of death remains unclear, though Turner had a history of hypertension and had undergone bariatric surgery for weight loss. A spokesman from the District Attorney’s office said that they are awaiting toxicology and microbiology reports.
Mount Vernon Deputy Police Commissioner Richard Burke has stated that “no foul play” is suspected in Turner’s death. Mount Vernon Mayor Ernest Davis noted that while the investigation into the incident is ongoing, city officials would remain mum on the issue.
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