Tulsa police officer charged with manslaughter in shooting of man

Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby

Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby

TULSA, Okla. — Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby has been charged with felony manslaughter in the first degree, Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler told reporters Thursday.

Shelby fatally shot 40-year-old Terence Crutcher after his SUV stopped in a roadway last week.

“We reviewed the facts of the allegations, it is our responsibility to determine if the filing of a criminal charge is justified under the law,” Kurnzweiler said.

An arrest warrant was issued for Shelby and arrangements have been made for her surrender, he said.

Through her attorney Shelby has said Crutcher was behaving strangely and ignoring her commands, and she was afraid that he might be reaching for a weapon.

Multiple police cameras, including ones mounted in squad cars and in a helicopter, captured the Crutcher shooting on tape. In the video, Crutcher can be seen with his hands raised above his head prior to his death. He walks away from Shelby towards his car.

None of the video showed whether the window was open or closed.

There was no weapon found in the car.

Attorney’s for the family of Terence Crutcher say they are “happy charges have been brought” against Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby and that they will be seeking a “vigorous prosecution.”

The attorney’s also expressed gratitude toward the Tulsa Police Department.

“Today, we are thankful to TPD, we are thankful to Chief Jordan for providing information to the District Attorney’s office, and we are happy that charges were brought,” attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons said in a press conference.

The sister of Terence Crutcher said she is pleased Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby will face charges in the shooting death of her brother Terrence.

“This is a small victory,” Tiffany Crutcher told reporters.

“The chain breaks here. We’re going to break the chains of police brutality,” she added. “We know the history.”

Activists planned a rally Thursday night in Tulsa. In a tweet the group WethePeopleOkalhoma said, “There is still work to be done.”

It all started after a 911 call Friday from a woman said an abandoned car was blocking the street and a man was running away. The man warned that it was going to blow up, the caller said.

Shelby was the first officer to arrive on the scene, though she was not responding to the 911 call. Her attorney said she was on her way to a domestic violence call when she saw Crutcher.

 

 

 

Information below is from a previous story:

Terence Crutcher, a 40-year-old black man, was shot and killed Friday, September 16, 2016 by a police officer in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Terence Crutcher, a 40-year-old black man, was shot and killed Friday, September 16, 2016 by a police officer in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

On Aug. 16, Oklahoma twins Terence and Tiffany Crutcher celebrated their 40th birthday. Terence, a God-loving father who sang at church every week, had enrolled at a community college in Tulsa where he hoped to earn a degree.

“I’m going to show you,” Terence recently texted his sister. “I’m going to make you all proud.”

He never was able to follow through on that promise.

On the night of Sept. 16, exactly one month later, Crutcher’s SUV broke down, according to his family.

After police responded to a 911 call about the vehicle, the 40-year-old black man found himself raising his hands high above his head. Moments later, officer Betty Shelby fatally shot Crutcher. He was later found to be unarmed, according to authorities.

Now, as multiple investigations are underway, Crutcher’s sister has demanded prosecutors immediately press charges against Shelby.

‘Difficult to watch’

Three days after Crutcher’s death, the Tulsa Police Department on Monday released 911 audio, dashcam videos, and a police helicopter video of the incident.

Chuck Jordan, Tulsa’s chief of police, described the footage as “very disturbing and difficult to watch.”

Sometime after 7:30 p.m., dispatchers received two 911 calls. The first call came from a woman who said an abandoned vehicle was blocking a road.

"Somebody left their vehicle running in the middle of the street with their doors wide open," the caller said. "The doors are open, the vehicle is still running. It's an SUV. It's in the middle of the street, it's blocking traffic."

The woman also told the 911 operator that "the guy was running from [the vehicle]" after explaining to her it was going to "blow up."

Shelby was headed to a domestic violence call when she arrived first at the scene of Crutcher's stalled vehicle. Shelby told the dispatcher that "she's not having cooperation" from Crutcher, according to Jordan.

The police chief declined to offer more information regarding the lack of cooperation Shelby faced. When Shelby arrived, Crutcher was on the side of the road, away from his vehicle. He then approached Shelby, police said.

'Shots fired'

By the time Crutcher raised his hands, officers were also flying above the scene in a helicopter, capturing the incident from an on-board camera.

Footage from multiple police cameras show Crutcher walking toward his SUV in the middle of the road, hands raised, followed closely by Shelby and three other officers.

They surround Crutcher, who continued to walk back to his car, where he appeared to place his hands toward the vehicle.

Circling above the scene, one police officer in the helicopter can be heard referring to Crutcher as a "bad dude," according to audio from police footage.

Public information officer Jeanne MacKenzie said the responding officers on the ground thought Crutcher had reached his hands into the driver's side window of the vehicle.

Moments later, as Crutcher stands beside his car, the video shows him fall to the ground

"I think he may have just been Tasered," an officer says over the radio.

"Shots fired!" a female officer says.

In the video, Crutcher lies in the middle of the street, motionless, soon to be dead.

'There was no gun'

Jordan struck a candid tone about the officer-involved shooting that left Crutcher dead.

"I'm going to tell you right here now: There was no gun on the suspect or in the suspect's vehicle," Jordan said.

He also confirmed that Shelby had fired one shot and officer Tyler Turnbough had deployed his stun gun.

Shelby is on paid administrative leave, pending the outcome of a criminal investigation. According to the Tulsa World, Shelby, who is white, joined the force in 2011.

In addition, the Department of Justice and state authorities have launched investigations into the officer-involved shooting.

Danny C. Williams, U.S. Attorney of the Northern District of Oklahoma, said prosecutors will attempt to determine whether a federal civil rights violation had occurred.

Authorities refused to immediately answer additional questions due to the ongoing investigation.

Jack Henderson, a Tulsa City Council member, said authorities would get to the bottom of what happened Friday night. In the meantime, Henderson called for Tulsa "to remain a strong city, a together city" free of the violence and conflict seen in other cities across the U.S.

"We've already got two families' lives who will be affected forever," Henderson said. "We don't need some more lives to be changed this way."

'Devastated'

Outside the Tulsa County Courthouse, approximately two dozen protesters held signs and photos of Crutcher, shouting chants such as "hands up, don't shoot!"

As they walked around downtown Tulsa, they demanded further transparency as well as improved training for local police.

Pastor Mario Johnson, who said he watched the dashcam video before it was made public, believes Crutcher did not deserve to die.

"Him having his hands up, walking toward his car, he was walking away from the officers. He wasn't posing a threat in any way," Johnson said.

According to a Crutcher family attorney, Terence was just "having some difficulty with his vehicle and that's it."

Tiffany Crutcher said it was clear to her that Terence died because of a Tulsa police officer's "negligence and incompetency and insensitivity."

Now, she said, charges should be pressed in order to ensure justice is served. According to his sister, that's the least that should happen given Crutcher won't be able to make his family proud, like he hoped to do.

"And because he was a big bad dude," she said referring back to the police helicopter tape, "he'll never get that chance."