Tulsa, OK — Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby fatally shot 40-year-old Terence Crutcher in September when he experienced car trouble after leaving night classes at Tulsa Community College. On Sunday, Shelby went on CBS’s 60-Minutes to attempt to justify the killing of this unarmed man — and shamelessly blamed him.
In a brazenly despicable fashion, Shelby explained to host Bill Whitaker that Crutcher — who had no weapon on him or in his car — caused her to fear for her life, and her only option was taking his life.
“His hands were in the air from all views,” pastor Rodney Goss of the Morning Star Baptist Church, who viewed footage from both dash cams and a police helicopter prior to the public release, told the Tulsa World in September. “It was not apparent from any angle at any point he lunged, came toward, aggressively attacked, or made any sudden movements that would have been considered a threat or life-threatening toward the officer.”
The video evidence was so compelling that several days after it was released, a warrant was issued for Shelby’s arrest. She is set to go on trial in May for manslaughter.
Shelby described to Whitaker she felt Crutcher was acting like a ‘Zombie’ when she first spotted him, but noted she did not feel like it was a threat.
Betty Shelby: His hands are just dropped beside him. His chin is resting on his chest. And he’s standing there motionless. And I thought, “Hmmm. I wonder if he’s on PCP.”
It is easy to make these claims now, considering that officers allegedly found PCP in Crutcher’s vehicle. However, this is still no reason to kill a man.
Bill Whitaker: Why did that cross your mind first?
Betty Shelby: Because it was an odd behavior. Zombie-like, I– I– it’s the best I can-
Bill Whitaker: Zombie-like?
Betty Shelby: Zombie-like.
Bill Whitaker: Did you consider him a threat at that time?
Betty Shelby: No. Not at that time.
However, minutes later when Shelby said she stopped to ‘help’ the motorist, all that changed. When she saw Crutcher up close, her fear set in — and so did her deadly training.
Betty Shelby: And I say, “Hey, man, is this your vehicle?” And he mumbles something. And I can’t understand him. And he starts putting his hands in his pocket. I say, “Hey, man, take your hands outta your pockets. I’m trying to find out is this your vehicle?” And when I tell him to take his hands out of his pockets, he just immediately puts ‘em in the air.
Apparently, at least to this fearful officer, putting your hands in the air is suspicious and grounds escalation and violence.
“He’s got his hands up for her now,” the pilot, who happened to be Shelby’s husband, says of Crutcher, adding a moment later that the man appears uncooperative and may need to be tased.
Officer Tyler Turnbough, who had arrived as backup, took the less lethal route and deployed his Taser against Crutcher. However, Shelby fired before the electric jolt could even knock him to the ground. Also, video from one patrol car’s dash cam and one that is seen from a police helicopter circling above clearly shows Crutcher not acting aggressively as the cops surround and then murder him.
Bill Whitaker: Do you have any regrets about this?
Betty Shelby: I have sorrow that this happened that this man lost his life but he caused the situation to occur. So in the end, he caused his own.
Bill Whitaker: He caused his death?
Betty Shelby: Yes.
The mindset that it takes to believe this unarmed man is responsible for his own death is truly frightening. When Crutcher was killed, he posed no threat, was not violent, and was merely stopped on the roadside. Acting oddly is hardly a reason to deploy deadly force — much less attempt to justify it.
Whitaker then asks Tiffany Crutcher, Terrance’s sister, how she felt about that statement.
Bill Whitaker: Officer Shelby says that your brother’s actions caused his own death. What do you say to that?
Tiffany Crutcher: My brother’s dead because she didn’t pause. And because she didn’t pause, my family, we’ve had to pause. We’ve had to stop. We’ve had to lay down every single night with tears in our eyes. There was absolutely no justification whatsoever, with all the backup, for Officer Shelby to pull that trigger. No justification whatsoever.
Betty Shelby: If I wait to find out if he had a gun or not, I could very well be dead. There’s something that we always say. “I’d rather be tried by 12 than carried by six.”
Bill Whitaker: But as it turned out, he did not have a gun.
Betty Shelby: No, he did not.
Bill Whitaker: And because of your action, a man is dead.
Betty Shelby: Yes.