By The Washington Post’s count, American law enforcement officers have killed 171 Black people in 2016. Video released yesterday (September 20) shows that Terence Crutcher—number 170—had his hands up when Tulsa Police Department officer Betty Shelby shot and killed him.
The department is conducting an internal investigation, which will be reviewed by the Tulsa County district attorney, Steve Kunzweiler, who will decide if the officer should be indicted. Shelby—who has been with the department since 2011, following four years with the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office—is on paid administrative leave, pending the outcome. Danny Williams, Sr., United States Attorney for Northern District of Oklahoma announced yesterday that the Department of Justice has opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting, according to NPR.
The 40-year-old Black man was standing beside his stalled SUV on the side of the road on Friday (September 16) when officers arrived for what they say was a call of an abandoned vehicle that was blocking the street. Two videos, one shot from a dashcam, the other from a police helicopter, show that Crutcher was walking toward the car with his hands up before Officer Tyler Turnbough Tasered him and Officer Shelby subsequently shot him. The view was obstructed immediately preceding the shooting.
The video also shows that Crutcher was left on the ground for about two minutes before anyone checked him for a weapon, and nearly another minute before one of the officers attempted to provide medical aid. Crutcher, a father of four, died in a local hospital.
The New York Times reports that Chief Chuck Jordan confirmed that Crutcher was unarmed and did not have a weapon in the car. Shelby’s attorney told The Times that she thought Crutcher had a weapon and that he “had acted erratically, refused to comply with several orders, tried to put his hand in his pocket and reached inside his car window before he was shot.”
Shelby, who is White, requested backup after arriving on the scene, saying that Crutcher was uncooperative. The Times explains the scene:
According to that video, when the second police car arrived, Mr. Crutcher had his hands raised and was walking away from Officer Shelby, who walked behind him with her gun pointed at his back. She was soon joined by three more officers. Mr. Crutcher was shot less than 30 seconds after the second car arrived.
The helicopter video shows the same scene from above. “He’s got his hands up there for her now,” one officer aboard the helicopter can be heard saying. “This guy is still walking and following commands.”
“Time for a Taser, I think,” a second officer in the helicopter can be heard saying.
“I got a feeling that’s about to happen,” said the first officer, identified by Mr. Wood as Officer Shelby’s husband, Dave Shelby.
“That looks like a bad dude, too,” the second officer said. Mr. Crutcher was shot moments later, and the helicopter camera captured footage of him sprawled on the pavement, his shirt stained with blood. A woman’s voice can be heard yelling over the radio, “Shots fired!”
Crutcher’s family watched the video with Chief Jordan on Sunday (September 19). “We asked for answers, and we clearly got it through the video. And we’re truly devastated. The entire family is devastated,” the victim’s twin sister, Tiffany Crutcher said. “His life mattered.
You all want to know who that big “bad dude” was. That big “bad dude” was my twin brother. That big “bad dude” was a father. That big “bad dude” was a son. That big “bad dude” was enrolled at Tulsa Community College, just wanting to make us proud. That big “bad dude” loved God. That big “bad dude” was at church singing, with all his flaws, every week. That “bad dude,” that’s who he was.
USA Today notes that Crutcher was killed on the same day that law enforcement officers in New York City managed to take terror suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami into custody alive following a gun fight.