Witness vs. police on Taser death

Police interviewed witnesses in store, urge others to come forward
VICTORIA CHERRIE,, March 26, 2008

A local attorney on Tuesday refuted the police account of a confrontation in which an officer used a stun gun on a 17-year-old who later died.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said an "agitated" Darryl Turner threw something at a manager, ignored commands and advanced toward Officer Jerry Dawson Jr. last week, prompting the 15-year veteran to use his Taser to get Turner under control.

A preliminary autopsy showed no obvious cause of death.

The incident happened at a Food Lion on Prosperity Church Road where Turner bagged groceries and was a cashier.

Court documents say Turner had been asked by the customer service manager to leave the store about 1:15 p.m. Thursday, but he refused. Police have declined to give more details about the incident, which is being investigated by homicide detectives. An internal investigation is also underway.

Attorney Ken Harris, who represents Turner's family, is conducting his own investigation.

Harris said he has interviewed a witness who told him the officer entered the store as Turner was arguing with a manager. The witness said the officer told Turner to "step back."

The witness told Harris that Turner obeyed the officer's command, but was shocked with the Taser while standing less than five feet away, Harris said.

"According to the witness, Turner neither approached or threatened the officer at any time," Harris said.

He declined to identify the witness, but said he would provide an affidavit with his account to police. Department spokeswoman Julie Hill said detectives hadn't received the paperwork as of Tuesday evening.

Investigators interviewed all the people in the store who presented themselves as witnesses, she said. And she urged anyone else with information to call the department.

Co-workers, including a supervisor, said Turner was a reliable employee who had never been reprimanded at work. They said he had some disagreements with the customer service manager, who had asked him to tuck in his shirt and complained about Turner wearing gold teeth and big earrings.

Turner's mother, Tammy Fontenot, said he had come home for lunch on Thursday and told her he had stolen a couple of Hot Pockets from the store.

He was afraid of getting in trouble, she said, but she told him to go back and admit what he had done.

Fontenot said she had never known her son to have troubles with drugs or alcohol, although court documents say police investigators found three small bags of marijuana in his socks after the incident.

A candlelight vigil for Turner is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Thursday at his family's home at 10819 Azure Valley Place. Turner will be buried Friday at Crown Memorial Park after a noon visitation and 1 p.m. service at Temple Church International, 3201 Tuckaseegee Road.

Victoria Cherrie: 704-358-5062

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