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Attorney: Man ignored officer’s commands before shooting in Tulsa

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    In this image made from a Friday police video, Terence Crutcher, top, is pursued by police officers as he walk to an SUV in Tulsa, Okla. Crutcher was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead after he was shot by the officer around 8 p.m., Friday, police said.

TULSA, Okla. » An attorney for a white Oklahoma police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man said the man ignored officers’ commands, kept touching his pocket and was reaching through a window of his SUV when he was killed.

Tulsa police video shows 40-year-old Terence Crutcher walking away from the officers and toward his SUV Friday with his hands in the air. He then approaches the driver’s side of his vehicle, where an officer shocks him with a stun gun and another fatally shoots him.

Officers were called to the scene to respond to a report of a stalled vehicle.

Police Chief Chuck Jordan announced Monday, before the video and audio recordings were released, that Crutcher had no weapon on him or in his SUV when he was shot. It’s not clear from the footage what led Betty Shelby, the officer who fired the fatal shot, to draw her gun or what orders officers gave Crutcher.

Shelby’s attorney, Scott Wood, said Crutcher was not following the officers’ commands and that Shelby was concerned because he kept reaching for his pocket as if he was carrying a weapon.

“He has his hands up and is facing the car and looks at Shelby, and his left hand goes through the car window, and that’s when she fired her shot,” Wood told the Tulsa World for a story published today.

Local and federal investigations are underway to determine whether criminal charges are warranted in the shooting or if Crutcher’s civil rights were violated.

Police helicopter footage was among several clips released that show the shooting and aftermath. A man in the helicopter that arrives above the scene as Crutcher walks to the vehicle can be heard saying “time for a Taser” and then: “That looks like a bad dude, too. Probably on something.”

Crutcher’s twin sister, Tiffany Crutcher, called for charges Monday.

“The big bad dude was my twin brother. That big bad dude was a father,” she said. “That big bad dude was a son. That big bad dude was enrolled at Tulsa Community College, just wanting to make us proud. That big bad dude loved God. That big bad dude was at church singing with all of his flaws, every week. That big bad dude, that’s who he was.”

Betty Shelby’s mother-in-law, Lois Shelby, said the officer is grieving for Crutcher’s family and isn’t prejudiced. She told The Associated Press in a phone interview today that Shelby “thought she had to protect her own life” when she shot Crutcher.

“She wouldn’t harm anyone, we’re all sick, we feel for the (Crutcher) family,” Lois Shelby said. “But, you know, we have a family that goes out every day and faces life and death. And when she is being accused of things she didn’t do wrong, it’s too much, and they don’t think about our family.”

Betty Shelby declined comment today, referring calls to her attorney.

Police video shows Crutcher walking toward his SUV that is stopped in the middle of the road. His hands are up and a female officer is following him. As Crutcher approaches the driver’s side of the SUV, another officer walks up followed by two others and Crutcher appears to lower his hands and place them on the vehicle. The four officers surround him, making it harder to see his actions from the dashboard camera’s angle.

Crutcher can be seen dropping to the ground. Someone on the police radio says, “I think he may have just been tasered.” One of the officers near Crutcher backs up slightly.

Then almost immediately, someone can be heard yelling, “Shots fired!” Crutcher’s head then drops, leaving him completely lying out in the street.

After that, someone on the police radio can be heard saying, “Shots fired. We have one suspect down.”

Officer Tyler Turnbough, who is also white, used a stun gun on Crutcher, police said. Shelby’s attorney, Wood, said Turnbough fired the stun gun at the same time Shelby opened fire because both perceived a threat.

The shooting comes four months after ex-Tulsa County volunteer deputy Robert Bates was sentenced to four years in prison on a second-degree manslaughter conviction in an unarmed black man’s 2015 death. Bates said he mistakenly grabbed his gun instead of his Taser. Shelby worked as a Tulsa County sheriff’s deputy for four years before joining the Tulsa Police Department in December 2011, officials said. She has been placed on paid leave.

The initial moments of Crutcher’s encounter with police are not shown in the footage, and Wood said the situation unfolded for about two minutes before the videos began. Shelby did not activate her patrol car’s dashcam, said police spokeswoman Jeanne MacKenzie, and the ground-level video released Monday came from the car of a second officer who arrived at the scene.

Two 911 calls described an SUV that had been abandoned in the middle of the road. One unidentified caller said the driver was acting strangely, adding, “I think he’s smoking something.”

After the shooting, Crutcher could be seen lying on the side of the road, blood pooling around his body, for nearly two minutes before anyone checked on him. When asked why police did not provide immediate assistance, MacKenzie said: “I don’t know that we have protocol on how to render aid to people.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, which also called for charges, said Crutcher was left to bleed while officers stood by. The group’s executive director, Ryan Kiesel, said Crutcher’s death shows “how little regard” Tulsa police have for the community’s minorities.

Benjamin Crump, one of the attorneys for Crutcher’s family, said Monday that Crutcher committed no crime and gave officers no reason to shoot him.

“When unarmed people of color break down on the side of the road, we’re not treated as citizens needing help. We’re treated as, I guess, criminals — suspects that they fear,” Crump said.

Associated Press writer Jill Bleed in Little Rock, Arkansas, contributed to this report.

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  • That’s why it’s very scary even driving thru these back wood places. A stalled vehicle? OMG. The caller set the cops up by saying CrutCher was strange and smoking something. Bet the caller was white. Then the helicopter cops also have their bias slants with their comments. The woman cops dash cam not on? Department violation. Wow. This cop needs a federal penetentary room. Sorry folks, this was all wrong.

  • You don’t want to get shot, listen to the cops orders. Raise your hands, don’t move. Even if you don’t agree, just do it. Too many lives lost and families grieving. Especially if you don’t have a weapon. Not worth your life to think you won’t get shot. If you don’t like how you were treated, fight it in court. At least you’re still alive.

  • I implore those who are are so critical of the national anthem protests to place things squarely in context. First, our nation, our republic, this great country is not just steeped in civil protest and dissonance our founding fathers encouraged and cultivated such actions. Second, nothing in these protests impedes ones civil liberties, to enjoy a football game and certainly not life. Third, the actions being protested, are of folks who will never take another breath, who will never see a loved one, or any number of things we take for granted.

    This is just another, in a sad and all-together too often occurrence that is happening in many of our communities. To that, I cite the most appropriate words of MLK:

    This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice.

  • This attorney is full of XXXX … the guy had his hands up … and it didn’t help that the radio transmission from the helo included comments like “looks like a bad dude … probably on something”. Whoever said that needs to be out of law enforcement along w/ that cop who shot this guy. Actually all those at the scene need to be out of law enforcement as from what I read, no one called for an ambulance and they just let this poor dude basically bleed to death …

      • “looks like a bad dude” is not fact … you need to stick to the facts … he’s at least a few hundred feet off the ground looking down … how can you tell if he’s a bad dude … that is not a “fact” … just because a person is big does not make them “bad”

        • That and the fact that from the helo, the white sounding officer ( i bet you $10) evaluated he on something. Yeah the road.

  • Police do not have the right to shoot anyone who does not listen to there commands. They can arrest them but not murder, cmon people this is america “innocent until proven guilty” unless your black male.

  • killer cops are trigger happy in a split second when they are not obeyed. there strategy from the police chief and the brass is give the prep only one second to obey then shoot to kill.

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