After reviewing both dashcam video and police helicopter footage, Judge Deborrah Ludi-Leitch of Tulsa, Oklahoma has ordered the police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black man to stand trial for manslaughter.
Officer Betty Shelby shot and killed Terence Crutcher on September 16 after discovering him outside of his SUV, which was parked in the middle of a two-lane roadway. When Crutcher ignored all of Shelby’s commands and then attempted to reach his arm into the driver’s side window, the officer fired the lethal shot.
About 72% of state and highway police vehicles are equipped with video cameras. Shelby’s had a dash cam, but the footage may or may not help her case.
Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzeiler is prepared to argue that Shelby overreacted in the heat of the moment. The video clearly shows that Crutcher had his hands in the air and that there weren’t any “weapons or bulges indicating a weapon was present.”
On the other hand, the autopsy revealed that Crutcher had PCP in his system at the time of the shooting. In 2012, 10.3 million people reportedly drove under the influence of illicit drugs, and it is often true that individuals in this state of mind act erratically. Lead homicide detective Sgt. Dave Walker testified that he believed Shelby feared for her life in the presence of Terence Crutcher.
Officer Tyler Turnbough, who was also on the scene with Shelby, reported that he, too, was fearful of Crutcher’s odd behavior. He deployed his Taser at the same time his fellow officer fired her gun.
Regardless, an affidavit stated that Shelby reacted “unreasonably by escalating the situation from a confrontation,” and that she became too “emotionally involved.”
Shelby turned herself in on September 23 and was released on $50,000 bond. Her court date is scheduled for December 15, at which time she will plead not guilty.