Law enforcement officials in Mount Vernon said anyone in a holding cell is supposed to be checked on every 15 minutes, but at least an hour had passed between the time Raynette Turner was last seen alive and the time she was found dead.
“My office’s Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit will investigate the death of Raynette Turner, consistent with Executive Order No. 147 and a conforming order to be issued by the governor at my request,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
The investigation comes just weeks after Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointed Schneiderman as the special prosecutor who will investigate civilian deaths at the hands of police.
Turner’s death has been compared with the death of Sandra Bland, a Black woman who died in a Texas jail, which caused national outrage. Officials said Bland committed suicide by hanging herself with a trash bag. That death is being investigated as a possible murder, and her family has called for an independent autopsy.
Mount Vernon community activist Samuel L. Rivers wants the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate Turner’s death, saying that Schneiderman’s political connections to the city of Mount Vernon will make it impossible for the Turner family to receive justice.
Mayor Ernest D. Davis and Westchester County Democratic Chairman Reginald Lafayette are reportedly best friends and former business partners. Lafayette is also the chairman of the Mount Vernon Democratic City Committee, the organization that recently endorsed Davis to run for another term. Lafayette also sits on the New York State Democratic Committee, the same organization that endorsed Schneiderman’s run for attorney general.
“Having the United States Department of Justice as the lead investigative agency is the only way to ensure a full, transparent and thorough investigation,” said Rivers.
Bronx Assemblyman Michael Blake said he supports Schneiderman’s investigation. Schneiderman is a former state senator whose district was close the district Blake represents.
“When preventable deaths happen in police custody, the public becomes increasingly more wary of the justice system,” Blake said. “By making Attorney General Schneiderman the special prosecutor who investigates these types of tragedies and the AG taking action to seek justice, Governor Cuomo and AG Schneiderman are demonstrating their determination in eliminating the corruption of and restoring the public’s trust in our justice system.”