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.
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 an effort to collaborate and show transparency, Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan has elected to show video and audio in reference to the officer involved shooting that occurred on September 16th, 2016 resulting in the death of Terrance Crutcher.
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:
She's afraid he could have a gun in his pocket. He's got very loose clothing on. So she draws her gun on him and says "Sir I want you to get down on your knees, get down on your knees." He refuses that command.
Benjamin Crump, the attorney representing the Crutcher family, according to CNN, described a different account of what unfolded in the middle of road:
Why is an unarmed black man who has committed no crime, who only needed a helping hand, given bullets in his lung?
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:
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.