Terence Crutcher: Unarmed Black Man with Hands Up Shot by Police
UPDATE: 5:15 p.m. ET Sept. 22, 2016
Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiller has filed first-degree manslaughter charges against Officer Betty Shelby with the Tulsa Police Department.
“In the matter of the death of Terence Crutcher, I determine that the filing of the felony crime of manslaughter in the first degree against the Tulsa Police officer Betty Shelby is warranted,” Kunzweiler said in a press conference Thursday.
Terence Crutcher’s SUV broke down in the middle of the road on Friday evening in Tulsa, Oklahoma. For this, he would die.
Officerswere initially responding to what police described as a stalled vehicle.Dashcam video released by the Tulsa Police Department on Monday shows that as the police car approached the scene, Crutcher walked toward his car with his hands raised.
Officer Betty Shelby pointed her gun behind him. Three additional officers then ran up to him. As Crutcher appears to put his hands onthe roofof his SUV on the driver’s side, OfficerTylerTurnbough fired his Taser, and shortly after, Shelby shot him.
Crutcher, 40, was pronounced dead at a hospital.
A video from a police helicopter also shows a view of the incident, in which a voice is heard saying, “That looks like a bad dude too. Probably on something.”
Shelby’s husband, who is also an officer, was one of the men in the helicopter.
The videos contradict what police initially said that Crutcher approached officers from the side of the road after Turnbough arrived.
(Warning Graphic Content: View the helicopter and dashcam video)
In a press conference on Monday, Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan said, “no gun was found in the suspect’s vehicle.”
Jordan said he was not available to provide extensive details as local authorities are conducting an investigation, which will determine whether criminal charges are filed in connection with the shooting.
Jordan called the video “very disturbing” and “very difficult to watch.”
“We asked the Justice Department in on it immediately,” he said.
U.S. Attorney Danny Williams announced the Department of Justice (DOJ) has opened an investigation into whether a civil rights violation occurred.
It’s not clear from the footage why Shelby drew her gun or what orders officers might have given Crutcher.Shelby’s attorney said he reached out for something when he approached the SUV.
No one can be seen giving aid to Crutcher until more than two-and-a-half minutes after he was shot, which Tulsa Police Sgt. Shane Tuell said after the news conference is also under investigation, according to the Tulsa World.
About three dozen protesters gathered outside the Tulsa County Courthouse on Monday and called for the immediate arrest of Shelby. They shouted, “Hands up. Don’t shoot.” That is achant used during protests following the police-involved death of another unarmed Black man, Eric Garner, in Staten Island, New York, in 2014.
OnTuesday, investigators said they found the drug PCP in Crutcher’s car. But hisfamily’s attorney, Benjamin Crump, said the drug discovery is a distraction that does not justify the shooting. He said it is also unclear if Crutcher was on the drug at the timethe shooting.
About 200 protesters gathered on Tuesday nightoutside the Tulsa Police Department. Many chanted, “Fire Betty.”
Crutcher’s death brings to light the basis of protests that have occurred in cities across the country, on numerous college campuses and even on football fields against law enforcement’s treatment of Black men and women.
Many took to social media to express outrage and dismay:
“Wait for the facts”
“Don’t jump to conclusions”
“She was a good cop”
“He wasn’t following commands”
Dr. Williams (@onlydevante) September 20, 2016
“The big bad dude was my twin brother. That big bad dude was a father,” Tiffany Crutcher said at Monday’s press conference in reference to the comment made about her deceased brother.
“That big bad dude was a son. That big bad dude was enrolled at Tulsa Community College, just wanting to make us proud. That big bad dude loved God. That big bad dude was at church singing with all of his flaws, every week. That big bad dude, that’s who he was.”
ATulsa reserve deputyfatally shot an unarmed Black manin April 2015.Oklahoma law enforcement officials said it was an accident as the white officerhad meant to pull out his Taser.
In 2013, Jordan, Tulsa’s police chief who also said duringMonday’s press conference, “We will achieve justice in this case,” actually apologized for the department’s actions during the 1921 race riots that terrorized Black residents.
“I cannot apologize for the actions, inaction and dereliction that those individual officers and their chief exhibited during that dark time,” he said. “But as your chief today, I can apologize for our police department. I am sorry and distressed that the Tulsa Police Department did not protect its citizens during those tragic days in 1921.”
Race Riots and Destruction of Black Wall Street
The segregation of the early 1900s in Greenwood, Oklahoma, a suburb of Tulsa, created a need for retail and service businesses, schools and entertainment in the Black community. African American entrepreneurs developed a vital, self-contained economy that would become Black Wall Street and the talk of the nation. Booker T. Washington, a noted African American educator and author, created the label.
Known locally as Greenwood Avenue, Black Wall Street was a major thoroughfare that had doctors and lawyers’ offices, grocery stores, beauty salons, movie theaters, hotels and more. Blacks also enjoyed relative prosperity and participated in the oil boom in the surrounding areas of northeastern Oklahoma.
On May 31, 1921, “an encounter between a white woman and a Black man in an elevatorno one knows what really happenedled to accusations of rape and assault against the Black man, Dick Rowland,” according to “Oklahoma Journeys,”apodcast of the Oklahoma History Center.
When Rowland was taken to jail, an armed lynch mob of white men formed, demanding he be turned over to them. An armed group of Black men arrived at the jail wanting to protect Rowland. The scene turned violent after a shot was fired.
Whites used the situation as an opportunity to rampage through Greenwood shooting, looting and burning. Most of Greenwood’s Black residents were rounded up and held against their will to prevent themfrom protecting their property.
The Tulsa police chief deputized hundreds of white men and commandeered gun shops to arm them, which enabled the battle to continue. There were airplanes carrying white assailants who fired rifles and dropped firebombs on buildings and homes.
It lasted throughout the night and well into the next day.
According to the Greenwood Cultural Center:
“An estimated 10,000 Blacks were left homeless, and 35 city blocks composed of 1,256 residences were destroyed by fire, resulting in over $26 million in damages. The official count of the dead by the Oklahoma Bureau of Vital Statistics was 36, but other estimates of black fatalities vary from 55 to about 300.”
The events of the massacre were long omitted from local and state histories.