Oklahoma prosecutors have filed first-degree manslaughter charges against the police officer who fired the fatal shot that killed 40-year-old Terence Crutcher during a traffic stop last week.
As you’ve probably heard if you’ve been following the news this week, the incident began when Tulsa police got a call from a concerned citizen about a vehicle that had broken down in the middle of the road. Officer Betty Shelby was the first officer to arrive on scene, where she began speaking to Crutcher outside of his vehicle. It’s unclear exactly what happened during this time, but Officer Shelby radioed in that the suspect was being uncooperative.
Backup arrived on scene moments later, and a police helicopter caught their arrival and the next few moments on camera. Crutcher began walking to his vehicle with his arms in the air, even though it appears he was receiving other instructions from the officers. Shortly thereafter, Officer Shelby discharged her service weapon, striking and eventually killing Crutcher. The video from the helicopter can be seen below.
Despite statements from Officer Shelby who stated that she feared for her life and acted as she saw fit, the affidavit filed against her states otherwise, saying Shelby “reacted unreasonably by escalating 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.”
In seeking charges, prosecutors offered two possible theories as to why they believe Officer Shelby killed Crutcher; either she acted impulsively in a fit of anger and frustration or she wrongly killed him as she sought to detain him. The case will go before a judge who will determine if there is enough evidence to move forward with a trial. If judge allows prosecutors to move forward with charges of first-degree manslaughter, Shelby could face anywhere from 4 years to life in prison.
Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said that tensions are high, but he urged the people of Tulsa to let the judicial process play out.
“The tragic circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Crutcher are on the hearts and minds of many people in this community,” Kunzweiler said. “It’s important to note that despite the heightened tensions felt by all, which seemingly beg for an emotional response and reaction, our community has consistently demonstrated the willingness to respect the judicial process.”