posted at 1:21 pm on May 18, 2017 by John Sexton
Betty Jo Shelby, the Tulsa police officer who shot and killed Terence Crutcher last year was acquitted by a jury Wednesday. The case became national news in part because Officer Shelby is white and Crutcher was black and unarmed at the time of the shooting. From the Associated Press:
The family of Terence Crutcher burst into tears and expressed outrage after jurors found Tulsa officer Betty Jo Shelby not guilty of first-degree manslaughter in the Sept. 16 shooting. About 100 demonstrators later gathered outside the courthouse and some briefly blocked a main street.
“Let it be known that I believe in my heart that Betty Shelby got away with murder,” Crutcher’s father, the Rev. Joey Crutcher, said after the verdict was announced.
A lawyer for Shelby said the officer was “elated” that the jury found her not guilty.
“She’s ready to get back to her life,” defense attorney Shannon McMurray said.
This local news report gives you a sense that the verdict may have come down to Shelby’s potentially risky decision to take the stand in her own defense. Shelby testified that she had seen a training video in which a man walks to a car, reaches in and pulls out a gun.
Here’s the NY Times’ description of the incident that led to the shooting:
Shortly before he died, Mr. Crutcher stopped his S.U.V. in the middle of a North Tulsa street and got out, behaving erratically and prompting 911 calls from other motorists. An autopsy later showed that he was high on PCP, and Officer Shelby testified that she could smell the drug.
Officer Shelby said he ignored her commands to stop, walking away from her and toward his vehicle, his arms raised. She said Mr. Crutcher repeatedly reached into his pocket, and, on the video, he can be seen lowering one hand. Another officer shocked him with a Taser at the same moment that the fatal shot was fired.
Officer Shelby said she shot him when he appeared to be reaching into the driver’s window of the S.U.V., fearing that he was getting a gun, though no weapon was found in the vehicle or on Mr. Crutcher. She contended that the window was open, but his family has insisted that it was closed; the video does not make it clear.
After the verdict, Officer Shelby exited the building and ran toward a waiting car. Terence Crutcher’s family spoke to reporters inside the courthouse while protesters gathered outside in what a local reporter described as a “tense” scene:
The jury was composed of eight women and four men. Four of the jurors were black. The AP reports that four of the jurors were in tears as they left the courtroom after the verdict.