Tulsa (OK) police officer Betty Shelby says that race was not a factor in her decision to fire a single, fatal shot at PCP abuser Terrence Crutcher in her first interview since the incident occurred.
Crutcher ignored multiple commands from Shelby to stop and surrender, turned to look at Shelby as if to fix her location, and then reached into his vehicle through the half-open window. Shelby fired, suspecting that Crutcher was reaching for a weapon.
The Tulsa police officer charged with manslaughter for killing an unarmed black man tells Bill Whitaker race had nothing to do with her decision to pull the trigger. Officer Betty Shelby says Terence Crutcher caused his own death through his actions and his failure to heed her commands. Crutcher’s twin sister says video of the incident proves her brother was wrongfully killed. Shelby, who is expected to be criminally tried in May, speaks in her first interview about the incident on the next edition of 60 Minutes Sunday, April 2 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
The police dash-cam and helicopter videotapes show Crutcher walking back to his vehicle while, Shelby says, she was ordering him to stop. She says she suspected he was intoxicated because of his “zombie like” demeanor. An autopsy found the drug PCP in his system. A vial of the drug was found in the door pocket of his car. The video shows Crutcher had his hands up for much of the encounter, but Shelby fired at him, she says, when he reached into his car. “What I based everything on was his actions, his behaviors. Race had nothing to do with my decision making,” she says.
“I’m feeling that his intent is to do me harm and I keep thinking, ‘Don’t do this. Please don’t do this. Don’t make this happen,’” says Shelby. Shelby tells Whitaker Crutcher kept reaching into his pocket suggesting to her, based on her experience, that he had a gun. When he got to the car window, Shelby remembers the moment he reached in. “And it’s fast. Just that would tell any officer that that man’s going for a weapon…I say with a louder, more intense voice, ‘Stop. Stop! Stop!’ and he didn’t. And that’s when I took aim.”
Six days after the shooting and before the police investigation was concluded, the Tulsa district attorney charged Shelby with manslaughter, alleging she overreacted. Asked if she thought the authorities had charged her quickly to prevent civil unrest, Shelby replies, “I believe that’s what they thought.”
Tulsa District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler rushed to charge Officer Shelby when he discovered that the police investigation into the shooting was going to exonerate her, apparently bowing to fears of race riots threatened by minority activists if the shooting was determined to be justified.
Crutcher’s family claims that he was unarmed and compliant. They’re clearly and obviously wrong about his compliance as both helicopter and dash camera videos show Crutcher walking away from Shelby with his hands up before reaching into the half-opened driver’s side window of the vehicle with his left hand.
Officers must make the decision to fire when a non-compliant suspect reaches into a vehicle, as the following video clearly demonstrates. The man simulates Crutcher’s walk up to the vehicle and reaching into the window. He’s able to draw and fire a gun accurately in .28 seconds.
Betty Shelby’s decision to fire follows law enforcement standards and training practices. Her fellow officer who had just arrived on the scene, Tyler Turnbough, said that he too, would have fired his pistol if he didn’t have his taser already drawn (and he did tase Crutcher as Shelby shot him. The investigation into the shooting shows it was a justifiable homicide.
Tulsa District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler’s decision to go around the police investigation and indict Shelby despite the facts reeks of a politically-motivated prosecution.