The Oklahoma police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man whose car broke down in the road on September 16 has been charged with first-degree manslaughter.
Officer Betty Shelby, 42, fired the single shot that killed Terence Crutcher, 40, in Tulsa, the Associated Press reports.
He was taken to the hospital, where he later died.
You can read more about the charge here.
In the affidavit filed in the case, which you can read here, investigators said Shelby told them she “feared for her life,” and thought Crutcher “was going to kill her.”
The investigator wrote that Shelby, “reacted unreasonably by escalating the situation from a confrontation with Mr. Crutcher, who was not responding to verbal commands and was walking away from her with his hands up, becoming emotionally involved to the point that she over reacted. Although Mr. Crutcher was wearing baggy clothes, Officer Shelby was not able to see any weapons or bulges indicating and [sic] weapon was present.”
Tulsa Police said the shooting occurred near 36th Street and Lewis Avenue about 7:30 p.m., KOTV reports.
Crutcher’s SUV had stalled in the middle of the road, and police arrived to check on the situation, according to the news station.
Police Chief Chuck Jordan said Shelby was on the way to another call when she encountered Crutcher and his vehicle. Jordan, who said he is unable to release many details because of open investigation, said Shelby requested backup because she was “not having cooperation” from Crutcher.
The officer who deployed his Taser was named as Tyler Turnbough. He is not facing charges.
First-degree manslaughter is a felony that carries a minimum sentence of four years in prison and a maximum of life.
Shelby turned herself in Friday morning. She was booked into the Tulsa County Jail at 1:11 a.m. and released at 1:23 a.m. after posting $50,000 bond, according to online records.
Here’s what you need to know about the shooting and Shelby:
1. Dashcam & Helicopter Videos Show Crutcher Being Shot Near His SUV by Shelby
You can watch the dashcam video released by police above or by clicking here if the player does not load. The video is graphic. The shooting occurs about the 1:40 mark.
The video shows Terence Crutcher walking toward his SUV with his arms held in the air, as Officer Betty Jo Shelby follows behind him with her gun drawn and a second officer approaches with his Taser drawn. He has his back to her and the other officer. Crutcher appears to lean toward the SUV with Shelby at his side and the other officer behind him. A single shot can then be heard and other officers run toward the SUV.
Crutcher then collapses to the ground and Shelby yells into the radio, “Shots fired!”
The Tulsa Police Department released other videos from the shooting. The first video shows the scene of the shooting from a police helicopter. In the video, one of the helicopter pilots says, Crutcher, “looks like a bad dude … might be on something.” The video is very graphic:
You can watch other videos here.
A pastor who watched dash camera video says Crutcher had his hands “in the air,” before he was shot, the Tulsa World reports.
Pastor Rodney Goss, of the Morning Star Baptist Church, also said the video does not show Crutcher reaching into his vehicle. He said Crutcher was walking toward it.
“His hands were in the air from all views,” Goss told the Tulsa World. “It was not apparent at any angle from any point that he lunged, came toward, aggressively attacked, or made any sudden movements that would have been considered a threat or life-threatening toward the officer.”
Goss added that he did not see a weapon. In the video, one officer can be seen deploying his Taser and the other officer then fires her gun.
“It wasn’t a matter of minutes, it was a matter of moments,” Goss told the newspaper. “As quick as the officer released the Taser from his hand, Terence was falling to the ground having already been shot.”
Goss said it took several moments before anyone checked on Crutcher.
“After having been shot, a couple minutes it appears, but it seemed like a lifetime, went by before anyone actually checked with him as far as pulse — as far as whatever the case may be,” Goss said.
He also expressed concerns about audio recorded after the shooting, in which a man in a police helicopter is heard saying Crutcher looked like “one bad dude,” the newspaper reports.
Police said they wanted to show the video to the family and community first.
“We wanted them to see it before it was released so they wouldn’t be blindsided by it,” Tulsa Police Sergeant Shane Tuell said. “We wanted to be able to have that intimate time with them, with their attorney, to see if they had any questions or concerns.”
2. Her Attorney Says Shelby Thought Crutcher Was on PCP & Claims He Reached Into the SUV Before He Was Shot
Shelby has been placed on paid administrative leave while the shooting is investigated.
She gave a statement to homicide detectives on Monday, the New York Times reports.
Her attorney, Scott Wood, told the Times that Shelby thought Crutcher had a weapon. He also said Crutcher “had acted erratically, refused to comply with several orders, tried to put his hand in his pocket and reached inside his car window before he was shot.”
Wood told the Tulsa World the incident began about two minutes before the dashcam video started. Shelby was the first officer on the scene, coming upon Crutcher’s broken down SUV, and called for backup. Her dashcam did not record video, according to police. The video begins when backup arrives.
Wood told the newspaper Crutcher was not with his SUV when she arrived, “so she isn’t really sure what’s going on.”
The attorney told the Tulsa World that Crutcher ignored the officer’s commands several times and didn’t answer her questions and reached for his pockets several times despite Shelby telling him not to.
Wood said that Shelby, based on drug-recognition training, believed Crutcher was acting erratically because he was under the influence of PCP.
Tulsa Police told KOKI-TV that a vial of PCP was found in Crutcher’s SUV after the shooting. Autopsy and toxicology results have not yet been released.
Attorneys for Crutcher’s family have said the PCP is not a justification for the shooting. They also argue that Crutcher could not have been reaching into his SUV, because the window was closed.
Wood said Shelby fired her gun at the same time as the other officer deployed his Taser, because they both perceived a threat.
“He has his hands up and is facing the car and looks at Shelby, and his left hand goes through the car window, and that’s when she fired her shot,” Wood said.
Video footage appears to show that the window was not open.
“Every situation is different. Officers are involved in typically fast-moving situations, and officers who choose to use force, base (those decisions) on the situation involved that they are facing,” police spokesperson Jeanne MacKenzie told the AP.
The U.S Justice Department has also launched a parallel civil rights investigation.
“I want to assure our community, and I want to assure all of you and people across the nation who are going to be looking at this, we will achieve justice, period,” Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan said at a press conference, adding that the videos are “very disturbing” and “difficult” to watch.
Protesters gathered at the Tulsa County Courthouse on Monday to call for justice, holding signs with phrases including #BlackLivesMatter and “Didn’t have to kill him,” KTUL-TV reports.
Community leaders who watched the video on Sunday expressed shock and outrage about what they saw, but called for a calm reaction when it is made public. Pleas Thompson, the head of the local NAACP, asked for residents to be “level-headed” after seeing the footage, according to the Tulsa World.
“I think the justice system will work here in Tulsa, because we’ve seen it work before,” Thompson said, making a reference to the case of Tulsa County reserve deputy Robert Bates, who was found guilty of manslaughter in the fatal shooting of a black man last year. He was sentenced to four years in prison earlier this year.
Morning Star Baptist Church Pastor Rodney Goss said he expects public outrage, and said the focus should be on changing things going forward.
“It’s difficult to tell your people that it’s OK because the police department has it under control, when the police department in the eyes of much of the community are the proprietors of such an event,” Goss told the Tulsa World.
“The only thing you can attempt to do is be the voice of reason and put something in place that will help your people vent, and that is safe and in a practical way that will hopefully help them deal with a situation that is very painful for the African-American community. I’m pushing for not only a march or a meeting, I’m pushing for a seat at the table,where we can affect change in the policies and the culture of the police versus the community,” he said.
3. Her Husband Is Also a Tulsa Cop & Was in the Helicopter at the Time of the ShootingShelby was hired by the Tulsa Police Department in 2011 after working for the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office from June 2007 to November 2011, according to the police department.
She resigned from her position to join the Tulsa department.
According to the news station, Shelby wrote in her resignation letter she would be “honored and grateful” to work for the sheriff’s office in the future.
A police spokesman told the Tulsa World that Shelby’s husband, Dave Shelby, who is also a Tulsa police officer, was in the helicopter at the time of the shooting “by happenstance.”
It was not her husband that made the comment about Crutcher being a “bad dude.” The other officer in the helicopter hasn’t been identified.
Shelby’s mother-in-law, Lois Shelby, told the Associated Press that Betty Shelby is grieving for the victim’s family and is not prejudiced.
Lois Shelby told the AP her daughter-in-law, “thought she had to protect her own life,” when she fired the fatal shot.
She added that Betty Shelby has always wanted to be a police officer.
4. She Has Been Accused of Excessive Force Twice in Her Career
Shelby has been accused of using excessive force twice during her career, KOTV reports.
Both of those complaints were determined to be unfounded, the news station reports. Details of those cases were not immediately available.
Her personnel file also shows that she is a field training officer, meaning she works to train rookie officers.
She has also received four letters of commendation and an Oklahoma meritorious service award, according to KOTV.
Shelby was born in Poteau, Oklahoma, and graduated from Mannford High School in 1992, before studying biology at Northeastern State University, according to personnel files obtained by KJRH-TV.
Shelby was briefly a member of the Oklahoma Air National Guard, from May 2000 to October 2000, as a trainee, but left after injuring her knee.
According to KJRH, she checked yes to the question of whether she’d “ever possessed or used illegal drugs,” on her application for the sheriff’s office, and also checked yes when asked if she had ever had a “victim protection order filed against you, or any action pending.”
She wrote in the job application that she had been involved in two domestic violence cases in her personal life.
The first was in 1993, when she and her former boyfriend damaged each other’s cars during a break-up. Temporary restraining orders were filed to keep them separated, but were later dismissed.
She wrote that in 2002 her ex-husband’s wife filed a protective order against her, claiming she was making harassing phone calls to her. Shelby said in the application that the order was denied when it went to court, “the Judge saw that I was not guilty of the accusations made against me.”
You can read the full application here.
She also says she worked as a teacher’s assistant at a Tulsa school from 2001 to 2002.
In 2004, prior to becoming a police officer, Shelby spoke at a “Pro America Rally” at a Tulsa high school, according to a Tulsa World article from the time.
She led the Pledge of Allegiance, and spoke about her husband, fellow Tulsa Police Officer Dave Shelby, who was deployed to Iraq at the time.
5. Crutcher Was a Father of 4 Children Who Was Studying at a Local Community CollegeTerence Crutcher was the father of four children, the Washington Post reports. His family says his SUV stalled as he headed home from class at Tulsa Community College, where he had been studying music appreciation.
Crutcher was also involved in his church, including singing in the choir, according to the Tulsa World.
His pastor, Terry Shannon, told the newspaper it was a “blessing and a joy” to be Cructher’s pastor, saying he attended the church “faithfully” with his family for years.
“He sang in the choir,” Terry Shannon said. “He had a beautiful voice.”
His sister and other family members called for murder charges to be filed, and referenced the “bad dude” comment made in the helicopter video, saying Crutcher’s life mattered.
“We are truly devastated, the entire family is devastated,” said Tiffany Crutcher, Terence’s twin sister. “You all want to know who that big bad dude was? That big bad dude was my twin brother. That big bad dude was a father. That big bad dude was a son. That big bad dude was enrolled at Tulsa Community College. … That big bad dude loved God. That big bad dude was at church singing with all his flaws every week. That big bad dude, that’s who he was.”