Tulsa, OK — Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby will not spend a day in prison for killing 40-year-old Terence Crutcher. In fact, according to officials on Friday, Shelby will be allowed to return to her job on the police force.
Tulsa police Chief Chuck Jordan said in an email Friday Shelby will once again be a police officer with his department but would not be allowed to patrol Tulsa’s streets.
Shelby’s trial concluded this week when she was found “not guilty” of manslaughter Wednesday, by a jury of her peers. The jurors also wanted to go on record as saying she is not without blame.
Shannon McMurray, Shelby’s lawyer didn’t appear convinced her client would return to the force, even expressing doubt it would be a good idea. “She’s going to self-guess herself and get herself killed or somebody else,” McMurray said, implying she may still be a danger to society. She’s been on unpaid administrative leave since September when she was charged with manslaughter.
Crutcher’s family isn’t waiting around for their son and father’s killer to make up her mind whether or not to return to the police department. According to the Associated Press (AP) they’re petitioning the city to prevent such a reinstatement of her employment.
Crutcher’s death was captured on video from a police helicopter which was flying overhead. Shelby’s husband, Dave Shelby, was in the chopper and watched as his wife made the decision to shoot Crutcher, who died from his injuries.
Shelby even took her case to the court of public opinion, granting an interview with 60 Minutes where she discussed the shooting in detail.
In her interview with 60 Minutes she said Crutcher wasn’t obeying her commands and was acting “Zombie-like.” She said she began to fear when he ignored her orders. “I’m thinking he’s calculating how he can get to his vehicle to get whatever weapon it is that he’s going to get because he didn’t find it in his pocket,” she said.
She described the moment she fired. “It’s like slow motion of me bringing my gun up, my finger coming in and then letting off. And he stopped and then he just slowly fell to the ground.”
She then blamed her shooting Crutcher — on Crutcher.
In court, the AP described her defense team’s strategy:
Shelby said she fired her weapon out of fear because Crutcher ignored her commands to lie down and appeared to reach inside his SUV for what she thought was a gun. But prosecutors said she overreacted, arguing that Crutcher had his hands in the air and wasn’t combative, part of which was confirmed by police video that showed Crutcher walking away from Shelby with his hands above his head.
The father’s killing drew outrage from the community and the nation as a whole. As The Free Thought Project has reported, there is an apparent epidemic of police-involved shootings which has led, by some estimates, to the deaths of over 1,000 people per year. The number may, in fact, be higher, as no government entity currently tracks Deaths by Cop.
Tulsa’s mayor G.T. Bynum addressed reporters following the “not guilty” verdict. “We have a long way to go, as a city, when one part of our city is synonymous with an entire race. We have a long way to go, as a city, when people keep expecting lawlessness from African Americans in response to an incident or a verdict.”
Addressing the racial disparity he observes in his city, Bynum said, “I would remind Tulsans that our history shows us African Americans in Tulsa have not been the instigators of lawlessness, and riots. They have been the victims of them. So I would ask that we not keep assuming the worst from a part of our community that has been exposed to the worst in this city’s history.”
Bynum says his time spent with the Crutcher family shows him they’re “really good people.” Speaking of the loss of their loved one he said, “His parents have had to bury a son. His kids will have to grow up without a dad who loves them. His sister, all of her best memories of her brother will be memories. There will be no more new ones.”
On Friday, an unusual action was taken on behalf of the jury. The twelve members (3 of whom were Black) issued a post-trial statement. According to the AP, they presented a “post-trial court filing on Friday [indicating] that Shelby could have used a less-lethal method to subdue Crutcher and could have saved his life. The foreman of the jury also says in a three-page memo that jurors weren’t comfortable with the idea that Shelby was ‘blameless’ in Crutcher’s death.”
McMurray acknowledged her client could have chosen a less-than-lethal method of subduing Crutcher but added her client had to make a “split-second” decision.
Just like that — cops can kill unarmed, non-violent, and arguably innocent fathers on video, and not only be acquitted — but still be cops.