Tulsa cop Betty Shelby will go free after her first-degree manslaughter trial ended in an acquittal. While on duty last September, Shelby fatally shot an unarmed black man, Terrence Crutcher, who had experienced car trouble. The case rose to quick notoriety after dashcam video and helicopter footage both showed that Crutcher had been holding his hands in the air and walking away from officers when he was tasered and then shot. The helicopter footage also revealed that one cop remarked that Crutcher “looks like a bad dude.”
Many facts in the case (including whether a weapon was in Crutcher’s vehicle — there was not) were heavily disputed before trial. While on the stand, Shelby testified that she was in fear for her life when she shot Crutcher and didn’t know whether he was trying to reach for something inside his car. Prosecutors contested whether he was combative, as she claimed. Shelby told the jury, “I did everything I could to stop this. Crutcher’s death is his fault.”
The trial lasted for a week, and the jury deliberated for nine hours. They requested the option to explain their verdict in open court, but the judge denied the request. Shelby’s attorneys asked for a mistrial (during deliberations) and objected to the repeated description of Crutcher as “unarmed.” His family issued a statement following Shelby’s acquittal:
Crutcher’s family called the verdict a disappointment, and called the police department “corrupt.” Crutcher’s twin sister, Tiffany Crutcher, said her brother’s hands were up, that he was not an imminent threat or attack her and didn’t deserve to be shot.
“Terence was not the aggressor; Betty Shelby was the aggressor,” she said.
Protesters gathered outside the Tulsa courthouse in the wake of the verdict. One woman reportedly shouted, “You don’t deserve to die because you’re black. We need better training for police officers!” Other protesters walked through the downtown streets while chanting, “Hands up, don’t shoot.”
The Tulsa Police Department will hold a press conference at 10:00am on Thursday. According to CNN, a police representative stated that there’s “no cause for celebration.” As for Shelby, her attorney told the Associated Press that she’s “elated” with the verdict and “ready to get back to her life.” Her tenure on the Tulsa police force has included multiple excessive force complaints, although it’s not known whether she will return to duty.