A white Oklahoma police officer was charged with manslaughter Thursday in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man whose vehicle had broken down in the middle of the street. Prosecutors say Betty Shelby “reacted unreasonably” when she opened fire on Terence Crutcher.
The charges came just days after authorities released dashcam and aerial footage, 911 calls and police radio traffic related to the Sept. 16 shooting in Tulsa. Here’s a look at the early evidence and different accounts of events.
WHAT THE VIDEOS SHOW
The shooting can be seen on two videos provided by authorities — one from a police helicopter and the other from another officer’s dashboard camera. They both show the 40-year-old Crutcher walking with his hands in the air toward his stopped SUV, which is straddling the center line. A female officer is following him.
As Crutcher approaches the driver’s side, more officers walk up and Crutcher appears to lower his hands and place them on the vehicle. A man inside a police helicopter overhead says: “That looks like a bad dude, too. Probably on something.”
The officers surround Crutcher and he suddenly drops to the ground. Someone on the police radio says, “I think he may have just been tasered.” Almost immediately, a woman’s voice yells on the radio, “Shots fired!” Crutcher is left lying on the pavement.
The officers slowly back away. Crutcher, his white shirt stained with blood, lies on the ground for nearly two minutes before an officer puts on medical gloves and begins to examine him. Emergency medical responders arrive about four minutes after the gunfire.
WHAT THE OFFICER’S ATTORNEY HAS SAID
Shelby’s attorney, Scott Wood, has said Crutcher repeatedly ignored Shelby’s commands and did not respond to her questions.
Wood said Shelby has completed drug-recognition training and thought Crutcher might be under the influence of the drug PCP. Shelby was also concerned about Crutcher repeatedly reaching toward his pockets because a person with a weapon often touches it to make sure it’s still there, Wood said.
The attorney said the officer drew her handgun after Crutcher walked toward the police car’s passenger side and started to put his hand in his left pocket.
Another officer arrived and drew his stun gun, the lawyer said, adding that the stun gun and handgun were fired simultaneously because both officers perceived the same threat.
He said Crutcher’s head was tilted but his eyes were on Shelby. Wood said Shelby recalled Crutcher mumbling incoherently when she asked him if the SUV belonged to him.
Shelby opened fire when Crutcher’s “left hand goes through” the SUV window, Wood said.
WHAT PROSECUTORS HAVE SAID
Shelby was charged with first-degree manslaughter, which is punishable by a minimum of four years in prison.
The officer “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 overreacted,” according to an affidavit filed with the charge.
Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said arrangements were being made for the officer to surrender.
“I do not know why things happen in this world the way they do,” Kunzweiler said. “We need to pray for wisdom and guidance.”
WHAT POLICE HAVE SAID
A Tulsa police spokeswoman initially told reporters that Crutcher refused requests to put his hands in the air. After the footage suggesting otherwise was released, spokeswoman Jeanne MacKenzie said she was relying on reports from officers.
Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan has said that Crutcher did not have a gun on his body or in his SUV.
Authorities have held back many details, citing the investigation, but police confirmed the discovery of PCP in Crutcher’s vehicle and that Shelby had a stun gun but did not use it.
WHAT THE FAMILY AND THEIR ATTORNEYS HAVE SAID
The family and their attorneys say the video clearly shows Crutcher wasn’t threatening the officers. The attorneys also provided an enlarged photo from the police footage that appears to show the SUV’s window rolled up, which would contradict Shelby’s claim that Crutcher was reaching inside his vehicle.
Whether Crutcher possessed or used drugs is also irrelevant, the lawyers said.
“If a case like this with clear video can’t be appropriately dealt with justly, then what case can be?” attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons has said. “Once people lose hope in our justice system, everything else falls down.”
Bleed reported from Little Rock, Arkansas. Associated Press writer Justin Juozapavicius contributed to this report from Tulsa, Oklahoma.