An Oklahoma jury on Wednesday acquitted a white police officer in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man in Tulsa last year.
Tulsa officer Betty Shelby was found not guilty in the Sept. 16 shooting of 40-year-old Terence Crutcher in a case that garnered national attention and widespread protest from Black Lives Matter.
Jurors deliberated more than nine hours before delivering the verdict. Afterward, Gov. Mary Fallin (R) called for calm as dozens of protesters outside the courthouse chanted: “No justice. No peace. No racist police,” the Associated Press reported.
The verdict drew a sharp response from the Crutcher’s father. “Let it be known that I believe in my heart that Betty Shelby got away with murder,” the Rev. Joey Crutcher said.
Shelby, then a five-year veteran of the Tulsa Police Department, said she had ordered Crutcher to lie on the ground, and fired her weapon out of fear when he didn’t obey and appeared to reach inside his vehicle for what she thought was a gun.
Crutcher, a father of four and aspiring gospel singer, was shot as he stood by his stalled SUV. At about the same time, another officer fired a stun gun.
Instead of checking on Crutcher after the shooting, Shelby walked to the back of a patrol car, where another police officer attempted to comfort her, police video footage showed.
Shelby said she thought Crutcher was under the influence of PCP, a hallucinogenic drug that can make people aggressive. An autopsy showed PCP was in Crutcher’s system. Police also found a vial of PCP in Crutcher’s vehicle.
Her lawyers argued that Crutcher was combative in the two minutes before police cameras began rolling.
But prosecutors told jurors that Crutcher had his hands in the air and did not resist. That argument was partly confirmed in a police video taken by dashboard camera and another taken from a police helicopter that showed Crutcher walking away from Shelby with his hands above his head.
Shelby was charged six days after the shooting by Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler. The affidavit said Shelby “reacted unreasonably” and become “emotionally involved to the point that she overreacted.”
Crutcher’s family said that police had “demonized” their son and played up the PCP angle, while downplaying the fact that he was not armed. In the moments before Crutcher was shot, an officer in a police helicopter was overhead referring to Crutcher as a “big bad dude” — a description the family found particularly offensive.
“That big, bad dude mattered,” Crutcher’s twin sister, Tiffany, said after the shooting. “That big bad dude was a father, that big bad dude was a son, that big bad dude was enrolled at Tulsa Community College just wanting to make us all proud, that big bad dude loved God, that big bad dude was in church singing with all of his flaws every week.”
After Wednesday’s verdict, Shelby’s attorney said: “She’s ready to get back to her life.”
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