Fam­ily: Tulsa shoot­ing vic­tim was turn­ing his life around

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Justin Juoza­pavi­cius and Sean Mur­phy

TULSA, OKLA. >> An un­armed black man shot dead in the mid­dle of a Tulsa street last week by a white po­lice of­fi­cer had run-ins with the law dat­ing back to his teenage years and re­cently served a four-year stint in prison.

But those clos­est to Ter­ence Crutcher de­scribed him as a church-go­ing fa­ther who was be­gin­ning to turn his life around. After mark­ing his 40th birth­day with his twin sis­ter last month, Crutcher sent her a text that read, “I’m gonna show you, I’m gonna make you all proud.”

Crutcher was due to start a mu­sic ap­pre­ci­a­tion class at a lo­cal com­mu­nity col­lege on Fri­day, the day he was fa­tally shot by Tulsa po­lice of­fi­cer Betty Shelby after she re­sponded to a re­port of a stalled ve­hi­cle.

The shoot­ing was cap­tured in graphic de­tail by a po­lice he­li­copter and a cruiser dash­cam, though it’s not clear from that footage what led Shelby to draw her gun or what or­ders of­fi­cers gave Crutcher. An at­tor­ney for Crutcher’s fam­ily said Crutcher com­mit­ted no crime and gave of­fi­cers no rea­son to shoot.

Shelby was put on paid ad­min­is­tra­tive leave while lo­cal and fed­eral of­fi­cials in­ves­ti­gate the shoot­ing.

Crutcher’s crim­i­nal his­tory in­cludes a 1995 ar­rest in nearby Osage County in which of­fi­cers re­ported that they saw him fire his weapon out a ve­hi­cle win­dow. Records ob­tained by The As­so­ci­ated Press on Tues­day show that when Crutcher was or­dered to exit the ve­hi­cle for a pat­down search, he be­gan mak­ing a move­ment to his right an­kle be­fore an of­fi­cer man­aged to get con­trol of Crutcher. A .25-cal­iber pis­tol was found in his right sock, the ar­rest­ing of­fi­cer wrote in an af­fi­davit.

Crutcher even­tu­ally en­tered a no-con­test plea to charges of car­ry­ing a weapon and re­sist­ing an of­fi­cer, and he re­ceived sus­pended sen­tences, court records show.

Ok­la­homa prison of­fi­cials con­firmed Tues­day that Crutcher also served four years in prison from 2007 to 2011 on a Tulsa County drug traf­fick­ing con­vic­tion.

The Tulsa World re­ported that of­fi­cers used force against Crutcher at least four times, in­clud­ing a 2012 ar­rest on pub­lic in­tox­i­ca­tion and ob­struc­tion com­plaints. Ac­cord­ing to a prob­a­ble cause af­fi­davit in that case, an of­fi­cer used a stun gun on Crutcher twice while he was face down on the ground be­cause the of­fi­cer said Crutcher didn’t com­ply with at least three or­ders to show his hands. Crutcher’s fa­ther showed up while he was be­ing ar­rested and told the of­fi­cers that his son had “an on­go­ing prob­lem” with PCP, the af­fi­davit states.

Crutcher’s fam­ily could not be reached for com­ment on his crim­i­nal record. But an at­tor­ney for his fam­ily, Melvin Hall, said those de­tails weren’t known by po­lice at the scene.

“No­body claimed that he was a per­fect in­di­vid­ual. Who is per­fect? But that night he was not a crim­i­nal,” Hall said. “He did not have any war­rants. He had not done any­thing wrong. He had a mal­func­tion­ing ve­hi­cle, and he should have been treated ac­cord­ingly.”

On Fri­day, two 911 calls de­scrib­ing an SUV that had been aban­doned in the mid­dle of the road pre­ceded the fa­tal en­counter be­tween Crutcher and the po­lice. One uniden­ti­fied caller said the driver of the stalled ve­hi­cle was act­ing strangely, adding, “I think he’s smok­ing some­thing.”

Tulsa Po­lice Sgt. Dave Walker told the Tulsa World that in­ves­ti­ga­tors found a vial of PCP in Crutcher’s SUV, but he de­clined to say where in the ve­hi­cle they found it or whether they had de­ter­mined if Crutcher had used it Fri­day evening. Po­lice said a tox­i­col­ogy re­port could take sev­eral weeks.

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 po­lice shoot­ing him.

SUE OGROCKI - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Peo­ple hold signs at a “protest for jus­tice” over Fri­day’s shoot­ing death of Ter­ence Crutcher, spon­sored by We the Peo­ple Ok­la­homa, in Tulsa, Okla., Tues­day.

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