Wow! That was quick.
The white Tulsa, Okla., police officer captured on video fatally shooting an unarmed black man on a city street will face first-degree manslaughter charges, Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler announced at a news conference.
The prosecutor filed the charges against officer Betty Shelby on Thursday, a full six days after multiple cameras showed her shooting 40-year-old Terence Crutcher as he stood beside his stalled sport-utility vehicle. Moments earlier, cameras had captured Crutcher walking away from Shelby with his hands in the air.
“The tragic circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Crutcher are on the hearts and minds of many people in this community,” he said, according to NBC affiliate KJRH. “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.”
“I do not know why things happen in this world the way they do,” Kunzweiler added. “We need to pray for wisdom and guidance.”
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin released a statement saying she hopes the charges provide “some peace to the Crutcher family and the people of Tulsa.” The statement also urges the public to remain patient and remember that officer Shelby is innocent until proven guilty.
“No matter how you feel about the prosecutors’ decision in this case, I hope Oklahomans will respect the views of your friends and neighbors because we still have to live peacefully together as we try to make sense of the circumstances that led to Mr. Crutcher’s death,” the statement added.
Video shows Crutcher walking toward his vehicle with his hands above his head while several officers follow closely behind him with weapons raised. He lingers at his vehicle’s driver’s side window, his body facing the SUV, before slumping to the ground a second later.
“Shots fired!” a female voice can be heard yelling.
Tulsa police say Crutcher did not have a gun on him or in his vehicle.
After Crutcher is hit, footage shows his limp body lying on the roadway beside his vehicle. Officers appear to wait more than 2½ minutes before approaching Crutcher while he bleeds in the street.
The footage does not offer a clear view of when Shelby fired the single shot that killed Crutcher. Her attorney has said Crutcher was not following police commands and that Shelby opened fire when the man began to reach into his SUV window.
Shelby’s attorney, Scott Wood, told the Tulsa World that Shelby opened fire and another officer used a stun gun when Crutcher’s “left hand goes through the car window.”
Wood told told the Tulsa World earlier in the week that when his client arrived at the scene, several minutes before the camera footage begins, she found Crutcher’s vehicle in the middle of the road with the engine on and the doors open. Shelby, he said, wasn’t “really sure what [was] going on,” Wood said.
Shelby thought Crutcher was behaving like someone under the possible influence of PCP, Wood told the World, noting that Crutcher ignored the officer’s commands to stop reaching into his pockets. Shelby feared Crutcher might have a gun in his pocket, because people carrying weapons repeatedly touch their pockets to confirm the weapon is still there, Wood added.
Shelby, he said, had already checked the driver’s side of the SUV when Crutcher approached her from the east. At that point, the attorney said, a backup officer arrived and drew his stun gun. Wood said the stun gun and service weapon were fired simultaneously.
Police told the Associated Press that Shelby had a stun gun but did not use it.
A warrant has been issued for Shelby’s arrest, Kunzweiler said Thursday, and arrangements were being made with her lawyer for her surrender to the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Department. Shelby, who was hired in 2011, had been placed on administrative leave with pay.