Sunday 23 October 2016

Tulsa policewoman charged with killing black man released on 50,000-dollar bond

Published 23/09/2016 | 02:21

Betty Shelby has been charged with first-degree manslaughter over the death of Terence Crutcher (Tulsa County Inmate Information Centre/AP)
Betty Shelby has been charged with first-degree manslaughter over the death of Terence Crutcher (Tulsa County Inmate Information Centre/AP)
Officer Betty Shelby has been charged with first-degree manslaughter (Tulsa Police Department /AP)

A white police officer charged with manslaughter after she killed an unarmed black man has been released on a 50-000-dollar (£38,000) bond.

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Betty Shelby shot Terence Crutcher, 40, on September 16 on a street in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She was charged with first-degree manslaughter after police released graphic videos, saying in court documents that she "reacted unreasonably".

The affidavit filed with the charge said she escalated the situation "from a confrontation with Mr Crutcher, who was not responding to verbal commands and was walking away from her with his hands held up, becoming emotionally involved to the point that she over-reacted".

The swift action in Tulsa stood in contrast to Charlotte, North Carolina, where police refused under mounting pressure to release video of the shooting of another black man this week and the National Guard was called in to try to a head off more violent demonstrations.

Demonstrations in Tulsa since Mr Crutcher's death have been consistently peaceful.

Dashcam and aerial footage of the shooting and its aftermath showed Mr Crutcher walking away from Shelby with his arms in the air. The footage does not offer a clear view of when Shelby fired the single shot that killed him.

Her lawyer has said Mr Crutcher was not following police commands and that she opened fire when the man began to reach into the window of his vehicle.

Mr Crutcher's family immediately discounted that claim, saying the father-of-four posed no threat to officers. They also pointed to an enlarged photo from police footage that appears to show Mr Crutcher's SUV window was rolled up. Police said Mr Crutcher did not have a gun on him or in his vehicle.

The affidavit filed on Thursday also indicates that Shelby "cleared the driver's side front" of Mr Crutcher's vehicle before she began interacting with him, suggesting she may have known there was no gun on the driver's side of the vehicle.

The affidavit says Shelby told investigators that "she was in fear for her life and thought Mr Crutcher was going to kill her. When she began following Mr Crutcher to the vehicle with her duty weapon drawn, she was yelling for him to stop and get on his knees repeatedly".

Mr Crutcher was wearing "baggy clothes" but Shelby "was not able to see any weapons or bulges indicating a weapon was present", the affidavit says.

Among the definitions in Oklahoma for first-degree manslaughter is a killing "perpetrated unnecessarily either while resisting an attempt by the person killed to commit a crime, or after such attempt shall have failed".

If convicted, Shelby faces between four years and life in prison.

Mr Crutcher's twin sister Tiffany Crutcher said the family was pleased criminal charges were filed and called for a vigorous prosecution that would lead to a conviction.

"Our goal now is to ensure that this never happens to another innocent citizen," she said. "We're going to break the chains of injustice. We're going to break the chains of police brutality."

Shelby, who joined Tulsa Police Department in December 2011, was on her way to a domestic violence call when she encountered Mr Crutcher's vehicle abandoned on a city street, straddling the centre line. She did not activate her patrol car's dashboard camera, so no footage exists of what happened between the two before other officers arrived.


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