Betty Shelby

Photo via Tulsa Police Department (Public Domain)

'This is an issue that is not unique to Tulsa.'

Betty Shelby, a white Tulsa, Oklahoma, police officer, has been charged with first-degree manslaughter for the shooting death of Terence Crutcher, a 40-year-old African-American man.

Crutcher's death, which occurred last Friday, sparked national outrage when video of the shooting went viral online. Footage recorded from the dashcam of a police cruiser, which was made public by the Tulsa Police Department, showed Crutcher holding his hands up in the air as he is surrounded by police officers. What transpires from there is partially obscured from view, he can be seen falling to the ground as he is shocked with a stun gun by one officer and then fatally shot by Shelby.

Shelby's lawyer has insisted that Shelby believed Crutcher was acting erratically before reaching into his SUV when she discharged her firearm; however, lawyers representing the Crutcher family have challenged those assertions—charging that the vehicle's windows were all rolled up at the time.

Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan told the New York Times that Crutcher was unarmed at the time he was shot, and there was no weapon in the vehicle. An unnamed department official confirmed to Tulsa World that law enforcement officials did find a vial of PCP in Crutcher's car; however, an attorney representing the Crutcher family called that a “red herring” that did not constitute “justification to shoot him.”

“Our Tulsa Police Department worked quickly to provide all the information to the District Attorney. I appreciate their efforts as well as the District Attorney’s usual thorough evaluation of the rules of law for which we are all accountable. These are important steps to ensure that justice and accountability prevails,” Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett said in a statement shortly after the charges against Shelby were announced. “We will continue to be transparent and ensure the system carries out its responsibility to provide justice. We also appreciate the expedited work by Governor Mary Fallin and the State Medical Examiner’s office.

“Whether through peaceful demonstrations, prayer vigils or countless statements of support to the Crutcher family and the entire community, we are in this together as one Tulsa,” Bartlett continued. “We continue to pray together, mourn together and we will get through this together.”

Crutcher's death sparked a series of protests in Tulsa, where many community members called for Shelby's arrest. On Tuesday, over 200 protesters gathered in front of the Tulsa Police Department on Tuesday evening, chanting “Fire Betty.”

The U.S. Department of Justice has announced it is opening its own federal civil rights investigation into the incident.

“This is an issue that is not unique to Tulsa, Oklahoma,” said Benjamin Crump, a lawyer representing the Crutcher family, who also represented the family of Michael Brown, an African-American teenager whose death at the hands of a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, sparked nationwide protests in 2014. “This is an issue that seems to be an epidemic happening all around America. What are we as an American society going to do about it?”

H/T New York Times

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