On September 16, Tulsa Police Department Officer Betty Shelby shot and killed Terence Crutcher, a 40-year-old unarmed Black man who was standing in the road beside his stalled vehicle. Today (September 22), Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler announced that Shelby has been charged with first-degree manslaughter.
Following the shooting, Shelby's attorney told The New York Times that she thought Crutcher had a gun, and that he "acted erratically, refused to comply with several orders, tried to put his hand in his pocket and reached inside his car window" before she shot him. No weapon was found at the scene, and it was later revealed that the window was actually up.
From the affidavit the investigator filed with the district court: "Your affiant feels that Officer Shelby reacted unreasonably by escalating the situation from a confrontation with Mr. Crutcher, who was not responding to verbal commands and was walking away with his hands held up, and becoming emotionally involved to the point that she overreacted. Although Mr. Crutcher was wearing baggy clothes, Officer Shelby was not able to see any weapons or bulges indicating a weapon was present."
Kunzweiler held a press conference this afternoon to detail his decision to charge Shelby, who is white. You can watch it below, courtesy of local station KJRH.
"A warrant has been issued for her arrest," Kunzweiler said, adding that Shelby will be taken into custody by the Tulsa County Sheriff's Department, where she worked before joining Tulsa PD. Bond for the felony charge has been set for $50,000.
Tulsa mayor Mary Fallin issued a statement following the indictment, which included a plea to let the system stand in judgment of Officer Shelby: "I pray this decision provides some peace to the Crutcher family and the people of Tulsa, but we must remain patient as the case works its way through the justice system, where a jury likely will be asked to decide whether Officer Betty Shelby is guilty of the crime. And we must remember that in our justice system, Officer Shelby is innocent until proven guilty."
Per The Washington Post, Crutcher family attorney Benjamin Crump applauded the indictment and talked about next steps in a statement issued today. "Make no mistake, it was clear from the beginning that charges were necessary in this case. The officer responsible for the death of Terence Crutcher had to be brought to justice to be held accountable for her actions," he said. "We remain optimistic that the State Attorney will now do his job, and vigorously prosecute the officer to the fullest extent of the law, bringing some form of justice to the Crutcher family."
The Justice Department is also investigating the shooting for possible civil rights infractions.
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