In a move that many are hoping will be the beginning of a changing justice system, Prosecutors in Tulsa, Oklahoma announced that they will be charging the white officer who fatally shot Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man, with first-degree manslaughter. Betty Shelby was arrested Friday morning and has already been released on bond.
Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler told the media of the pending charges on Thursday afternoon, six days following the horrific shooting of the 40-year-old unarmed black man by Officer Betty Shelby. The controversial Sept. 16 shooting was captured on video by not only the dashboard cameras of the police vehicles, but also by a police helicopter which had been at the scene. The videos released clearly showed that moments before he was shot and killed by Shelby, Crutcher had been standing beside his stalled vehicle, hands in the air, as multiple officers moved in closer. Kunzweiler said that he was certain manslaughter was the most adequate charge in the situation.
“I do not know why things happen in this world the way they do. We need to pray for wisdom and guidance… A warrant has been issued for her arrest.”
According to The Root, the officer is having charges brought against her as outlined in the criminal complaint is because the shooting death of Terence Crutcher was “unlawfully and unnecessarily” carried out, though they are only pursuing manslaughter as her “fear resulted in her unreasonable actions which led her to shooting.” The Tulsa County affidavit filed against her also accuses the officer of “escalating the situation” after “becoming emotionally involved to the point that she over reacted.”
Officer Shelby made her $50,000 bond minutes after her arrest and was released.
At the news conference on Thursday, Kunzweiler said that his staff had been instructed to file the felony charges against Shelby before the briefing had begun and that they had also issued a warrant for the woman’s arrest at the same time. NPR wrote that yesterday the prosecutor’s office had been in correspondence with the officer’s lawyer at the time in order to arrange for her surrender to the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Department.
The claims made by Betty Shelby, by way of her attorney are that Terence Crutcher was shot because he had not been following the orders he was given and also that she thought he had been reaching through the window of his SUV. The family immediately disputed those claims and even reached for an enlarged still from the videos released, which they say showed that his window had actually been rolled up. The police did not find a gun on the black man nor in his vehicle and Shelby had actually cleared the front seat of the car long before she shot and killed Crutcher.
As news that charges will be brought against the officer for her role in the death of the unarmed black man spread, Terence’s twin sister, Tiffany Crutcher, said that this is a small victory for her family, and inferred that indeed it might be a step for black people as a whole.
“The chain breaks here. We’re going to break the chains of police brutality. We know the history.”
Despite the fact that protests have stemmed from the shooting death of Terence Crutcher, unlike in North Carolina, they have all been peaceful thus far and Steve Kunzweiler has taken the time to thank the community for not escalating what he believes is an already painful situation.
“The tragic circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Crutcher are on the hearts and minds of many people in this community. 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.”
If Betty Shelby is convicted of manslaughter she faces the possibility of four years up to life in prison.
[Featured Image by Tulsa County Sheriff’s Department]