On September 16, Terence Crutcher became the 170th Black person killed by police in 2016. Video shows that the 40-year-old Black man was standing beside his stalled vehicle when officers arrived following reports of an SUV blocking the road. He can be seen walking toward officers with his hands up just before Tulsa Police Department officer Betty Shelby shoots and kills him.
Shelby was charged with first-degree manslaughter days later, but yesterday (May 17), a jury found the officer, who is White, not guilty. According to The New York Times, the jury included eight women, four men and four Black people. They debated for nine hours before delivering the verdict.
Shelby’s attorney, Shannon McMurray, said that her client was “elated” with the jury’s decision. “We all are. It’s a true and just verdict.”
Shelby testified that she feared for her life and that Crutcher was acting erratically and reaching for a gun when she shot him. In closing arguments, the district attorney told the jury to consider if Crutcher was “simply going to the car with his hands up, and making the turn and pivoting to put his hands on the car when the shot is fired.” No gun was found on Crutcher or in the vehicle.
Crutcher’s father, Joseph Crutcher, does not feel justice was done in the Tulsa County District Court. “I have four grandchildren that are at home now that has lost their daddy,” he told assembled press after the verdict. “I said that I would accept whatever the verdict was, and I’m going to do that. But let it be known that I believe in my heart that Betty Shelby got away with murder, and I don’t know what was in the mind of that jury that they could come to that conclusion.”
Tulsa World reports that Sister Tiffany Crutcher is not giving up the fight. “Betty Shelby murdered my brother, and after she murdered my brother, all of the officers involved with the Tulsa Police Department tried to cover for her. What I got out of this case was that a cover up was exposed,” she said. “I’m going to make sure that I don’t rest until we get reforms for this police department in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and we change the culture of this corrupt police department. And I believe that all those officers involved, they’re going to be held accountable because this family right here, we believe in a higher power, we believe in a higher judge,” she said.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) lauched an investigation into the killing last September; NPR reports that the attorney in charge was among the dozens of U.S. attorneys that DOJ head Jeff Sessions asked to resign in March.