Tulsa of­fi­cer charged in death

Of­fi­cer ‘re­acted un­rea­son­ably,’ DA says of shoot­ing

Baltimore Sun - - NATION - By Justin Juozapavicius and Sean Mur­phy

TULSA, Okla. — Pros­e­cu­tors charged a white Ok­la­homa po­lice of­fi­cer with first-de­gree man­slaugh­ter Thurs­day, less than a week af­ter she fa­tally shot an un­armed black man on a city street and just days af­ter po­lice re­leased graphic videos, say­ing in court doc­u­ments that the of­fi­cer “re­acted un­rea­son­ably.”

Tulsa County District At­tor­ney Steve Kun­zweiler charged Tulsa Of­fi­cer Betty Shelby in the Sept. 16 shoot­ing death of Ter­ence Crutcher, 40.

Kun­zweiler said ar­range­ments were be­ing made for Shelby’s sur­ren­der.

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 held up, be­com­ing emo­tion­ally in­volved to the point that she over­re­acted,” ac­cord­ing to an af­fi­davit filed with the charge.

The ac­tion in Tulsa stood in con­trast to Char­lotte, N.C., where po­lice re­fused to re­lease video of the shoot­ing of a black man and the Na­tional Guard was called in.

Demon­stra­tions in Tulsa have been peace­ful.

Dash­cam and aerial footage of the shoot­ing and its af­ter­math showed Crutcher walk­ing away from Shelby with his arms in the air. The footage does not of­fer a clear view of when Shelby fired the fa­tal shot.

Her at­tor­ney has said Crutcher was not fol­low­ing po­lice com­mands and that Shelby opened fire when the man be­gan to reach into his SUV win­dow.

But Crutcher’s fam­ily dis­counted that claim, say­ing District At­tor­ney Steve Kun­zweiler dis­cusses the first-de­gree man­slaugh­ter charge filed Thurs­day in the po­lice shoot­ing. the fa­ther of four posed no threat to the of­fi­cers. They also pointed to an en­larged pho­to­graph from po­lice footage that ap­pears to show Crutcher’s win­dow was rolled up. Po­lice said Crutcher did not have a gun on him or in his ve­hi­cle.

An af­fi­davit filed Thurs­day said Shelby told po­lice homi­cide in­ves­ti­ga­tors that “she was in fear for her life and thought Mr. Crutcher was go­ing to kill her. When she be­gan fol­low­ing Mr. Crutcher to the ve­hi­cle with her duty weapon drawn, she was yelling for him to stop and get on his knees re­peat­edly.”

Crutcher was wear­ing “baggy clothes” but Shelby “was not able to see any weapons or bulges in­di­cat­ing a weapon was present,” the af­fi­davit states.

Among the def­i­ni­tions in Ok­la­homa for first-de­gree man­slaugh­ter is a killing “per­pe­trated un­nec­es­sar­ily ei­ther while re­sist­ing an at­tempt by the per­son killed to com­mit a crime, or af­ter such at­tempt shall have failed.”

If con­victed, Shelby could face a min­i­mum of four years in prison.

Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett said po­lice worked quickly to pro­vide Kun­zweiler with the in­for­ma­tion he needed to de­cide whether to charge the of­fi­cer.

“I ap­pre­ci­ate their ef­forts as well as the District At­tor­ney’s usual thor­ough eval­u­a­tion of the rules of law for which we are all ac­count­able,” Bartlett said in a state­ment. “These are im­por­tant steps to en­sure that jus­tice and ac­count­abil­ity pre­vails.

“We will con­tinue to be trans­par­ent and en­sure the sys­tem car­ries out its re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­vide jus­tice.”

Shelby, who joined the Tulsa Po­lice Depart­ment in De­cem­ber 2011, was en route to a do­mes­tic vi­o­lence call when she en­coun­tered Crutcher’s ve­hi­cle aban­doned on a city street, strad­dling the cen­ter line.

Shelby did not ac­ti­vate her pa­trol car’s dash­board cam­era, so no footage ex­ists of what first hap­pened be­tween the two be­fore other of­fi­cers ar­rived.

The po­lice footage shows Crutcher ap­proach­ing the driver’s side of the SUV, then more of­fi­cers walk up and Crutcher ap­pears to lower his hands and place them on the ve­hi­cle. A man in­side a po­lice he­li­copter over­head says: “That looks like a bad dude, too. Prob­a­bly on some­thing.”

Po­lice Sgt. Dave Walker has said in­ves­ti­ga­tors found a vial of the drug PCP in Crutcher’s ve­hi­cle. Shelby’s at­tor­ney, Scott Wood, has said that Shelby com­pleted drug-recog­ni­tion ex­pert train­ing and thought Crutcher was act­ing like he might be un­der the in­flu­ence of PCP.

At­tor­neys for Crutcher’s fam­ily said the fam­ily didn’t know whether drugs were found in the SUV, but that even if they were, it wouldn’t jus­tify the shoot­ing. A toxi- col­ogy re­port could take sev­eral weeks.

In the videos, the of­fi­cers sur­round Crutcher and he sud­denly drops to the ground. A voice heard on po­lice ra­dio says: “Shots fired!”

The of­fi­cers back away and Crutcher is left unat­tended on the street for about two min­utes be­fore an of­fi­cer puts on med­i­cal gloves and be­gins to at­tend to him.

At least two dozen peo­ple gath­ered out­side the court­house af­ter the district at­tor­ney an­nounced the charges, with some say­ing they were not happy that Shelby wasn’t charged with first-de­gree mur­der.

“We will be out here ev­ery sin­gle day un­til she gets mur­der,” Tulsa res­i­dent Tammi Sims said.

IAN MAULE/AP

If con­victed, Tulsa po­lice Of­fi­cer Betty Shelby could face a min­i­mum of four years in prison.

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