Five days ago, Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby allegedly shot and killed an unarmed black man, after his SUV broke down in the middle of the road. Now, the officer who shot Terence Crutcher is facing some serious charges. On Thursday, the Associated Press reported that prosecutors in Tulsa have filed first-degree manslaughter charges against the officer.
According to CNN, Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler told reporters Thursday that Shelby, who is white, has been charged with manslaughter in the first degree following the fatal shooting on Sept. 16. The Associated Press reported that Shelby allegedly fired the single shot that killed Crutcher, after Crutcher was tasered by Tyler Turnbough, another officer on the scene. Both officers are white and Crutcher was African American.
Dash cam and aerial footage — which has been widely shared and viewed on social media in recent days — reportedly show the 40-year-old man walking away from Shelby with his arms in the air. The footage doesn't make things entirely clear regarding the exact moment when Shelby opened fire. But, according to the Associated Press, the female officer’s attorney claimed that Crutcher was not following police commands and that Shelby opened fire when the man began to reach into his SUV window.
BREAKING: Prosecutor announces 1st-degree manslaughter charges against Tulsa officer who fatally shot Terence Crutcher.— The Associated Press (@AP) September 22, 2016
Tulsa officials confirmed earlier this week that Crutcher did not have a gun in his vehicle and released videos of the shooting, along with the following statement:
In the video, Crutcher can be seen with his hands raised above his head as the officers approached him and his vehicle:
In the aftermath of the shooting, Shelby's response to the situation has been interpreted differently by the officer's attorneys, Crutcher's family, and the public.
According to CNN, Shelby's attorney Scott Wood made the following statement:
Benjamin Crump, the attorney representing the Crutcher family, according to CNN, described a different account of what unfolded in the middle of road:
The charge filed against Shelby is certainly a step in the right direction towards justice, but many on Twitter say they are skeptical that it will result in a conviction:
Let's see if Betty Shelby ACTUALLY get sentenced tho or the charges get dropped cuz I've seen this before— Eagles (2-0) (@JGII_) September 22, 2016
Officer Betty Shelby will be charged with 1st degree manslaughter. I'm glad about that, but will it stick? Someone has to be responsible.— Tiffany Rayne (@TiffanyRayne) September 22, 2016
It's good Betty Shelby is being charged with the murder of #TerrenceCrutcher but justice won't served till she's convicted.— Stu Kelly (@sbkelly9) September 22, 2016
Let's just hope that these man slaughter charges actually stick to Betty Shelby. Too many "officers" are acquitted of murder these days.— Bae. (@SAYitbckwards) September 22, 2016
The charges against Shelby come days after violent protests broke out following a separate police shooting of a black man in Charlotte, North Carolina. Keith Lamont Scott was fatally shot by police on Tuesday afternoon at an apartment complex. Police say Scott was armed with a gun, but his family has disputed these claims.
While it’s distressing to see yet another police shooting of an African American dominating headlines again, it’s crucial to keep this very important conversation active — hopefully much-needed progress in law enforcement and justice for the Crutcher family will follow.