An Oklahoma police officer has been charged with manslaughter for the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man after the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office found she “reacted unreasonably” and became “emotionally involved to the point that she overreacted.”
Officer Betty Shelby was charged with manslaughter in the first degree for the shooting of Terence Crutcher on Friday night, Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said at a press conference Thursday afternoon.
“In the matter of the death of Terence Crutcher, I determine that the filing of the felony crime of manslaughter in the first degree against the Tulsa Police officer Betty Shelby is warranted,” Kunzweiler said.
Crutcher, 40, was shot and killed as he approached his SUV with his arms raised late Friday. The incident was caught on police helicopter and dashcam video.
The video footage, released on Monday, showed Crutcher slowly walking from the edge of a street north of Tulsa toward his vehicle, which authorities said had been reported abandoned and left running in the middle of the road at around 7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.ET).
Tulsa’s police chief has said Crutcher was unarmed and that no weapon was found on him or in his SUV.
The chief investigator for the district attorney’s office said in an affidavit Shelby “reacted unreasonably by escalating the situation from a confrontation with Mr. Crutcher, who was not responding to verbal commands and was walking away from her with his hands held up, becoming emotionally involved to the point that she overreacted.”
Tiffany Crutcher, Terence’s twin sister, said at a press conference later Thursday that her family was pleased to learn “the officer who senselessly killed my beloved twin brother” had been charged.
“We understand that nothing will bring him back,” she said. “Our goal now as a family is to ensure that this never happens to another innocent citizen … We lost a wonderful soul.”
Family lawyer Damario Solomon-Simmons said at the press conference that even if Crutcher was not responding to Shelby’s commands that did not warrant the deadly shooting.
“Failure to comply does not justify shooting someone,” he said.
A warrant has been issued for Shelby’s arrest, Kunzweiler said Thursday, and arrangements were being made with her lawyer for her surrender to the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Department.
Shelby, who was hired in 2011, had been placed on administrative leave with pay.
Governor Mary Fallin of Oklahoma said in a statement Thursday she hopes the decision “provides some peace to the Crutcher family and the people of Tulsa, but we must remain patient as the case works its way through the justice system, where a jury likely will be asked to decide whether officer Betty Shelby is guilty of the crime.”
“No matter how you feel about the prosecutors’ decision in this case, I hope Oklahoman’s will respect the views of your friends and neighbors because we still have to live peacefully together as we try to make sense of the circumstances that led to Mr. Crutcher’s death,” Fallin said in the statement.
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