Six witnesses testified in court on Wednesday that an unarmed pastor posed no threat to a Tulsa, Oklahoma police officer who fatally shot him on video.
Dash-cam and helicopter footage emerged in September showing 40-year-old Terence Crutcher being killed with his hands raised by officer Betty Jo Shelby.
According to police, Crutcher had approached officers after his car broke down, and refused commands to raise his hands before reaching into his vehicle. He was first tased by officer Tyler Turnbough and then shot once by Shelby.
Police said an officer was responding to another call and saw the SUV in the road and radioed for backup. The officers then walked toward the vehicle when Crutcher approached them from the side of the road.
“He refused to follow commands given by the officers,” police spokesperson Jeanne MacKenzie said at the time. “They continued to talk to him, he continued not to listen and follow any commands.”
According to the footage however, Crutcher had his hands up as four officers surrounded him by his car. That’s when Shelby opened fire. Crutcher would later die in the hospital.
Following the shooting, Tulsa police chief Chuck Jordan called the video “very disturbing, very difficult to watch.” He confirmed that no gun was found on Crutcher or in his vehicle and said an investigation had been launched to review Shelby’s actions having first placed her on paid administrative leave.
Watch the dash-cam video:
Watch the helicopter video:
In April, Shelby told 60 Minutes that she feared Crutcher was high on PCP because of his “zombie-like demeanor,” and said he kept putting his hands in his pockets and walking toward his SUV even though she had ordered him to get on his knees with her gun drawn.
And he’s not doing it. I’m hollering at him, “Stop. Stop now.” And he has now put his hands back up in the air. And he’s looking at his vehicle, back at me.
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.
I’m feeling that his intent is to do me harm and I keep thinking, “Don’t do this. Please don’t do this. Don’t make this happen.” And then right there he’s looking back at me. That’s what we call “targeting.” So he’s getting my position, my last-known location to retrieve and then shoot.
His shoulders drop, his arm drops, and he’s reaching in. And it’s fast. Just that would tell any officer that that man’s going for a weapon.
Shelby contradicted herself in the interview however, by candidly admitting that Crutcher was not being “belligerent” or showing “any aggression.” She was arraigned on first-degree manslaughter charges on September 30, and entered a plea of not guilty claiming she fired at Crutcher in self defense.
On Wednesday, the first day of testimony in Shelby’s trail began with six witnesses, including cops, testifying that they did not see Crutcher do anything to signal that he was a threat to Shelby or other officers.
According to a toxicology report released in October, Crutcher did have the hallucinogenic drug PCP in his system when he died. This prompted Crutcher family attorneys to argue that the results do not change the most pertinent facts of the incident.
“The medical examiner’s report of PCP in Terence Crutcher’s system is unfortunate. However, [the] toxicology report does not change the most pertinent facts of this tragedy,” attorneys said in a statement. “Officer Betty Shelby shot and killed Terence Crutcher who was, unarmed and had his hands up, without provocation or justification and she should be held accountable for her unlawful actions.”
In the wake of Crutcher’s death, attorneys for the mother of his children filed a civil lawsuit against the Tulsa police department. A District Court judge ruled in December however, that the woman could not be an heir to his estate because she was not legally his common-law wife. This initiated a legal fight between the woman and Crutcher’s parents.
On Friday, the defense for Shelby began presenting its case to jurors with Sgt. Dave Walker testifying that he felt “angry” and “disrespected” over how prosecutors were handling the case. Shelby faces four years to life in prison if convicted.
The trial will resume on Monday at 10 a.m. The Department of Justice has also initiated a separate civil rights probe into the shooting on the federal level. That investigation is still ongoing.
Update: Despite the video evidence and witness testimony, Shelby has been acquitted by jurors.