Tuesday 24 April 2018

US police officer cleared over killing of unarmed black man resigns

Betty Shelby has submitted her resignation from the Tulsa police force, her lawyer said (AP/Sue Ogrocki)
Betty Shelby has submitted her resignation from the Tulsa police force, her lawyer said (AP/Sue Ogrocki)

A white police officer recently acquitted over the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man in the US has resigned, saying the desk job she was given made her feel isolated from fellow officers.

Officer Betty Shelby was acquitted in May of manslaughter over the death of Terence Crutcher.

She has been working in an administrative role at Tulsa police department since May 19, two days after her acquittal.

She had been on unpaid leave since September 22, when prosecutors charged her

Ms Shelby's resignation is effective from August 3, the Tulsa branch of a national police union said.

She said she was praying for healing for the family of Mr Crutcher, who died after she opened fire in September.

"As I have stated before, the incident with Terence Crutcher was a tragedy for everyone involved, and I am sorry he lost his life," Ms Shelby said.

"I will continue to pray for the unity of our community, the safety of our citizens and our police officers."

Tulsa police spokesman Sargeant Shane Tuell said it is not clear whether the police chief has received her letter, adding that he could not comment until it is in hand.

Ms Shelby's lawyer, Shannon McMurray, said she not sure what the 43-year-old will do next.

Ms McMurray said there had been no agreement in place for a payout if Ms Shelby stayed in the desk job for a certain amount of time.

The officer was on patrol on September 16 2016 when she shot Mr Crutcher next to his SUV, which was stopped in the middle of the road.

Ms Shelby testified that she was scared because he appeared to be under the influence of drugs, did not obey her commands and looked like he was reaching inside his vehicle.

Prosecutors told jurors that Ms Shelby overreacted, noting that videos from a patrol car dashboard and a police helicopter showed Mr Crutcher had his hands in the air.

On the day Ms Shelby was reinstated at the police department, the foreman of the jury said in a court filing that if she had thought to use her stun gun before Mr Crutcher reached his SUV, the decision "could have saved his life".

The foreman wrote that many on the jury were not comfortable with the concept of Ms Shelby being "blameless" over Mr Crutcher's death.

One minister said her swift return to the force was "a slap in the face".

Mr Crutcher's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court in June against Ms Shelby and the city of Tulsa.

The suit seeks at least 75,000 US dollars (£57,000) in damages and calls for widespread reform in the Tulsa police department, including mandatory training for officers on managing suspects with mental health or substance abuse issues.

Race relations in Tulsa have been strained for more than 100 years. The city has yet to fully heal from a 1921 race riot that killed 300 black residents and burned down a thriving business district.

Last week, a jury deadlocked for the third time in less than a year and forced a mistrial in the murder case of a white former Tulsa officer accused of killing his daughter's black boyfriend.


Press Association

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