Family: Tulsa shooting victim was turning his life around
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.
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.