The attorney for Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby accused Chief Chuck Jordan and District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler today of bypassing a police investigation that would rule Shelby’s shooting of PCP addict Terence Crutcher justified, in order to charge her in what appears to be a politicially-motivated prosecution.
Before a judge made the decision that Shelby should stand trial, [Defense attorney Shannon] McMurray accused the police chief and district attorney Tuesday morning of working around the police homicide unit to charge the officer before the investigation was complete.
After prosecutors wrapped up their preliminary hearing case against Shelby, McMurray alleged Police Chief Chuck Jordan committed a series of “pre-emptive strikes” against Shelby after she shot Crutcher, 40, about 7:44 p.m. Sept. 16 in the 2300 block of East 36th Street North. Shelby appeared in a large courtroom set aside for her preliminary hearing, which had been assigned to a smaller courtroom, to accommodate spectators and media.
Special Judge Martha Rupp Carter took over the case Tuesday after it had been set to be heard before Special Judge James Keeley. Carter ordered the court to be in recess around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday so she could review helicopter and dash camera footage of the shooting.
In an offer of proof supporting McMurray’s plan to call witnesses for Shelby’s defense, McMurray said Jordan met with District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler the morning of Sept. 22 to ensure Shelby was charged in Crutcher’s death.
She noted that Jordan called a press conference Sept. 19 to release videos of the incident to the public and media and repeatedly said he will achieve “justice” for the Crutcher family, despite apparently learning that the homicide unit would issue a report saying Shelby was within her rights to shoot Crutcher. McMurray seeks to have Jordan testify to that his conduct was motivated by his belief that the circumstances of the shooting will lead to “civil unrest.”
The revelation that homicide detectives found Betty Shelby’s shooting of Terence Crutcher to be a justifiable homicide, and that Jordan and Kunzweiler went around that finding in order to bring Shelby up on charges to avoid rioting by an angry mob is stunning. If should be a career-ending collusion for both men if the allegations are substantiated.
Officer Shelby shot Crutcher, a serial drug abuser she believed (correctly) to be under the influence of PCP when he ignored repeated commands and reached into the open driver’s side window.
That’s right: the debate over whether the vehicle’s windows were up or down is over. Terence Crutcher did, in fact, reach into his SUV.
[Tulsa Police Homicide Sgt. Dave] Walker testified that [Tusla police officer Tyler] Turnbough deployed his Taser and Shelby fired her service weapon once they saw Crutcher reach into his SUV, which had stopped in the middle of 36th Street North, with his left hand. He said the driver’s-side window, like the others, appeared to be about halfway down. None of the windows were tinted, he said.
Those arguing that Crutcher’s windows were all the way up or all the way down (myself included) were all apparently wrong, and a person can easily reach instead a vehicle with its window halfway down.
In another bombshell, Defense Attorney McMurray said Turnbough would testify that he drew his taser because Shelby had her gun out and he intended to provide a less lethal response, but that if he was the officer with his gun out, he would have fired on Crutcher as well when Crutcher reached into the vehicle (Turnbough did fire his taser at Crutcher at approximately the same moment as Shelby as he perceived the same threat).
The claims that Tulsa Police homicide officers who carried out the investigation and the best-placed other officer on the scene feel that Shelby was justified in firing upon Crutcher strongly suggests that this case is going to prove to be a nightmare for Police Chief Chuck Jordan and District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler. They appear to have forced charges against Shelby when none were warranted in order to placate an angry mob.
The next hearing for Officer Shelby’s case will be December 15, and we’ll be watching it closely.