Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby has been charged with first-degree manslaughter by Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler.
Shelby shot 40-year-old Terence Crutcher on Sept. 16 when he repeatedly failed to obey orders to get on the ground, and reached towards the window of his SUV.
The officer was responding to calls of an abandoned vehicle in the middle of a road.
Shelby, through her attorney, released a statement about the shooting a few days ago. The statement says that she believed Crutcher was on drugs, possibly PCP. A vial of PCP was found in Crutcher’s SUV upon a search of the vehicle, after the shooting.
Here is a portion of the statement:
When Shelby approached the car, the doors were closed, and the windows were open, Wood said. She looked into the passenger’s side to make sure no one was on the floor of the car, and as she was getting ready to move to the driver’s side, she turned around and saw Crutcher walking toward her, Wood said.
Wood said that Shelby then said to Crutcher, “Hey, is this your car?”
Crutcher didn’t respond, simply dropping his head while continuing to look at Shelby, “kind of under his brow,” Wood said. Crutcher then began to put his hand into his left pocket, Wood said, adding that Shelby told Crutcher, “Hey, please keep your hands out of your pocket while you’re talking to me. Let’s deal with his car.”
Crutcher did not respond, Wood said, so Shelby ordered him again to get his hand out of his pocket. He then pulled his hand away and put his hands up in the air, even though he was not instructed to do so, which Shelby found strange, Wood said.
Shelby tried to get Crutcher to talk to her, but he simply mumbled something unintelligible and stared at her, Wood said. He then turned and walked to the edge of the roadway and turned to look at her, his hands still in the air, Wood said. He put his hands down and started to reach into his pocket again, Wood said, and she ordered him again to get his hands out of his pocket.
At this point, Shelby, a drug recognition expert, believed Crutcher was “on something,” Wood said, possibly PCP.
Shelby then radioed in that she had a subject “who is not following commands.”
Shelby then pulled out her gun and had Crutcher at gunpoint as she commanded him to get on his knees, Wood said. She pulled out a gun instead of a Taser because she thought he had a weapon, and she was planning to arrest him for being intoxicated in public and possibly obstructing the investigation, Wood said.
Shelby ordered Crutcher to stop multiple times as Crutcher walked toward the SUV with his hands up, Wood said.
But those orders cannot be heard in the audio from the dashcam video, which starts as another patrol car pulls up to the scene, showing Crutcher walking toward the SUV with his hands up as Shelby follows him, apparently with her weapon drawn and pointing at Crutcher.
As the video from the helicopter begins, Crutcher was “angling” toward his car while Shelby repeatedly commanded him to stop, Wood said. His hands were still in the air.
“As a police officer, you have to wonder — why would someone ignore commands at gunpoint to get to a certain location?” Wood said.
Crutcher’s arms came down, and he turned to face the car, Wood said, and he reached into the driver’s side window with his left hand. That’s when Shelby fired one shot and a fellow officer, Tyler Turnbough, deployed a Taser, Wood said.
Shelby believed that when Crutcher attempted to reach into the car, he was retrieving a weapon, Wood said. In her interview with homicide detectives, she said, “I was never so scared in my life as in that moment right then,” according to Wood.
A Tulsa Police helicopter captured the moment of the shooting.
Crutcher had a pretty lengthy rap sheet. Many of the charges are not that serious, but it shows the relationship he had with the law.
1996 Shooting with intent to kill — Dismissed
2001 Petit larceny — Conviction
2004 Driving while suspended — Conviction
2005 Driving while suspended, resisting officer — Conviction
2006 Driving while suspended — Conviction
Driving with open container — Dismissed
2006 Trafficking in illegal drugs — Conviction. (He was also charged in that incident with assault on a police officer and resisting, but that was dismissed.)
2011 Public intoxication (while in prison for drug trafficking) — Conviction
2012 Public intoxication — Conviction
Obstructing an officer — Conviction
2013 DUI — Conviction
Resisting officer — Conviction
Open Container — Conviction
Failure to wear seatbelt — Conviction
Speeding — Conviction
Crutcher also had 5 outstanding warrants at the time of his death. Many are for obstructing or resisting officers.
The video below shows why officer Shelby did exactly what she should have done.
In 1998 a 22-year-old sheriff’s deputy gave a white man one chance too many to obey his orders to step away from his truck. The Georgia deputy was gunned down, his screams as he was being shot at point blank range are almost too difficult to listen to. The video is used to train police recruits nationwide.
Officer Shelby did exactly the right thing when she shot Crutcher. If she hadn’t there’s a good chance she would’ve ended up like the deputy who was shot to death.
Of course, Black Lives protesters, oblivious to what police go through on a day to day basis, gathered at the Tulsa jail to see Shelby booked.
I'm now outside the Tulsa Jail where protesters have gathered to see Betty Shelby going into jail. Jail says she hasn't been booked in yet pic.twitter.com/fAI4crht6k
— Paighten Harkins (@PaightenHarkins) September 23, 2016
One Twitter user made a poignant observation.
If Betty Shelby wasn't a cop & was black, no one would care that she shot Terrence Crutcher.
— Jim Minardi (@AMillennialMind) September 23, 2016
Obey officers orders… you’ll live longer.