ALBANY -- Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman is looking into the death of a woman in a Westchester County holding cell as she faced a shoplifting charge, a case that could become the first for a special team created to investigate civilian deaths in police custody.
"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," Schneiderman spokesman Eric Soufer said Tuesday.
Mount Vernon city officials said Tuesday in a news conference that Raynette Turner, 42, an African-American mother of eight, was taken into taken into custody Saturday afternoon and accused of petit larceny from a food wholesale store. She was put into a holding cell to await arraignment this week, officials told The Journal News newspaper.
Turner was rushed to the hospital Sunday between 7:30 and 8 p.m. after complaining she didn't feel well, officials told the newspaper. She was treated for high blood pressure and returned to the cell after 10 p.m. She was found dead about 2 p.m. Monday in her cell.
Osvaldo Gonzalez, an attorney for her family, says the city failed to follow protocols for an inmate needing medical treatment. He said the family wasn't notified of the death until Tuesday morning.
An autopsy is planned.
"It's a tragedy when anyone dies in police custody," Deputy Police Commissioner Richard Burke said. He added, "There is no foul play suspected."
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in a July 8 executive order appointed the attorney general to be the special prosecutor of cases in which civilians die in police confrontations or in police custody.
The action came after a series of deaths of mostly minority suspects in confrontations with police, including the death of Eric Garner in Staten Island last July.