Jury gets case in Oklahoma officer's trial

Cornelia Mascio
Mag 18, 2017

Reverend Al Sharpton raises his hands while speaking to protesters before a peaceful 2016 march for Terence Crutcher, who was shot by Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby.

Betty Shelby, the Tulsa police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man a year ago, was found not guilty of first-degree manslaughter by a jury late Wednesday.

"This is definitely a tough pill to swallow", Tiffany Crutcher said after a jury found Officer Betty Shelby not guilty of her brother's killing.

Shelby testified that she fired her weapon out of fear because she said Crutcher didn't obey her commands to lie on the ground and appeared to reach inside his SUV for what she thought was a gun.

"I'm told in my training that you don't let them pull their arm back out. they can pull out guns and kill you", Shelby said under questioning by her attorneys, according to the Tulsa World.

The jurors sent the judge a note asking if they could make a statement when they delivered the verdict, but the judge said no and advised them that they were free to discuss the case after the trial.

That's when Shelby fired her weapon at Crutcher, and the officer next to her, Officer Tyler Turnbough, tased him.

Shelby testified that she feared for her life because Crutcher did not communicate with her, walked away from her and repeatedly switched between having his hands in the air and reaching toward his pockets.

Shelby's attorney, Shannon McMurray of Tulsa, said Shelby's decision to shoot was not a guess, that it was complete reliance on her training. "But that doesn't mean it is a crime", McMurray said in closing arguments.

Shelby testified that she called for backup and ordered Crutcher to get on his knees.

After calling dispatch to send another officer to that initial domestic call, she approached the vehicle, and glanced in the window but saw no one, she said. The footage doesn't show a clear view of when Shelby shot Crutcher.

Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler charged Shelby six days after the shooting. She also said he was sweating heavily and smelled of PCP chemicals. The statements outraged Crutcher's family, who said the statements indicated a racial bias.

Prosecutors asked Shelby on cross-examination why she, too, didn't use a Taser rather than a gun.

"Terence Crutcher made those choices". The jury comprised eight women and four men and included three African-Americans. In the moments before Crutcher was shot, an officer in a police helicopter was overhead referring to Crutcher as a "big bad dude" - a description the family found particularly offensive.

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