I’m not a prosecutor and I didn’t stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night. I do know that when you walk away from officers and then lower your hands, you’re creating problems for yourself that could result in bullets being fired in your direction.
This appears to be the case in the fatal shooting of a man named Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma Friday evening.
Crutcher’s family and anti-police activists are attempting to craft the narrative that Crutcher was a man with his hands up who was ruthlessly gunned down by a scared and trigger-happy cop.
This isn’t just a “he said, she said” story, however; there were both in-car dash cameras and a helicopter overhead that filmed the shooting
Here are those videos.
The shooting death of Terence Crutcher from a single shot by Tulsa Officer Betty Shelby is utterly infuriating for the simple reason that it appears completely preventable… by Mr. Crutcher.
The video released appears to be compressed down to the moments immediately before the shooting and several minutes afterward. We don’t know what the interaction was between Officer Shelby and Mr. Crutcher before these clips, but it is obvious that there was some sort of tense confrontation, and not your average disabled vehicle call.
Officer Shelby has her gun drawn, and Crutcher is facing away. He then slowly walks away from her patrol car, as the videos roll.
Crutcher’s SUV is straddling the centerline as he slowly walks back to his vehicle, his armed still raised, as at least a half-dozen other officers are rapidly closing in from behind him directions.
Officer Shelby is joined by Officer Tyler Turnbough as Mr. Crutcher reaches his driver side door and at least his right hand lowers, as is captured in the freeze-frame from the circling helicopter above.
Within a second or two of this freeze-frame, Officer Turnbough fires his taser and Officer Shelby fires a single shot from her handgun. We don’t know who fires first, or what their precise reason for firing was.
Mr. Crutcher stands frozen for several more seconds, than wilts to the ground on his back. By this point, two other officers are there.
In just these few seconds, a substantial amount of blood pours down his chest, onto the driver’s side door and onto the ground. He does not substantially move from this position, if at all, after going down.
Officers then clear Mr. Crutcher’s vehicle, but do not approach him for reasons not immediately explained. In many, if not most instances officers will immediately handcuff a wounded suspect for both their safety and his, but in this instance the officers mill around before backing away entirely. They seem to know or at least strongly suspect that the the wound was almost immediately fatal.
Was Terence Crutcher’s shooting justified?
The video quality simply isn’t that crisp from the helicopter view because of distance, and the dash cameras are obscured by the bodies of the officers themselves. We don’t know precisely what Terence Crutcher said or did, or if he did anything at the precise moment he was tased and shot.
What we do know is that police officers will not let a non-compliant suspect return to their vehicle as a safety concern, and that by refusing obvious police commands to stop and comply with officers, and by instead choosing to return to his vehicle, Terence Crutcher greatly raised tensions and reasonably put officers on a much higher threat level than they would have been if he stayed with Officer Shelby in front of her cruiser.
Officers have every reason to believe that a suspect returning to a vehicle against their orders is attempting to retrieve a weapon. They cannot know until after the fact if the belligerent person they’re dealing with is armed or not.
My gut reaction is, based on what we presently know, that investigators will be forced to conclude that Terence Crutcher forced officers into a no-win situation when he refused to comply with reasonable commands, and that when he lowered his hands towards either his waist or the door handle, they felt compelled to fire.
This shooting will likely be deemed lawful.
The only way I don’t see this being a justified shooting is if Officer Shelby’s shot was a negligent discharge. That situation would only seem to exist if her finger was on the trigger of her gun and Officer Turnbough fired his taser, and she flinched at the sound and shot Mr. Crutcher negligently.
There is not any indication that was the case, however. Both simultaneous shots seem to have been intentional.
Is that answer going to satisfy people?
I can assure you that it will not, especially at a time where anti-police advocacy is becoming heated well beyond the point of rationality.
Agitators and activists will put the blame for Terence Crutcher’s shooting 100% on the police, and will not even pretend than his actions are directly responsible for manufacturing a decision to fire for Officers Shelby and Turnbough.
The reality is that Mr. Crutcher’s decisions Friday evening to not comply with reasonable commands by officers—made in the name of safety for all concerned—created the conditions responsible for his death.
Update: PCP was recovered from Crutcher’s vehicle, and Officer Shelby is trained to recognize the signs of PCP abuse.