Hundreds showed up Saturday night to celebrate Terence Crutcher’s life, ushering him out of the world in much the same way he lived — surrounded by numerous family, friends, prayers and music.
Crutcher, 40, was fatally shot Sept. 16 by Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby along a stretch of 36th Street North, near Lewis Avenue. His death caused ripples across the country, causing conversations about race, police brutality and begging the question for many: “Why?” and “Could I be next?”
Just over a week after his death, nearly 1,000 came to his memorial service at Antioch Baptist Church, 110 E. 56th St. North. Around 750 of those squeezed into the church’s sanctuary, while another few hundred more packed into overflow rooms to hear audio from the service and watch on two screens.
More than 30 churches, schools, politicians and others were acknowledged at the end of the service for sending condolences to the family.
An array of family and friends spoke, including Crutcher family lawyer Damario Solomon-Simmons, Crutcher’s cousins the Rev. A. Cortes Rex and Shea Seals, Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett and Sen. Kevin Matthews.
Many of the speakers acknowledged Crutcher’s love of music.
Music from a keyboard and drums served as an interlude between speakers.
As well, a choir performed and Dechondrea Barror sang a soulful, gospel arrangement of the Lord’s Prayer. At the climax of the song, the hundreds in the congregation stood.
Barbara Shannon, a pastor at New Heights Christian Center, the Crutcher family church, said that when Crutcher sang, he didn’t do it “for show.” Instead, he sang for God.
Seals said music was Crutcher’s passion, along with his children.
“It was a wonderful release, and a way for him to show how thankful he was for life,” Seals said.
For those in attendance, the music appeared to be a release after more than a week of mourning. Some attendees sang along with the choir, at times.
Among the first to speak at the funeral was Solomon-Simmons, who talked about the man Crutcher was and how his death could have just as easily have been his own — or anyone else who looked like him.
“It could have been me,” he began, going on to say, “because, just like Terence, I’m 40 years old, and just like Terence, I’m bald-headed, and just like Terence, some people think I look like a bad dude, but just like I am, Terence was not a bad dude.”
He went on to address statistics that show black men are killed by police at a higher rate than other demographics.
He called it a “sad fact,” but it is something everyone has to work through to overcome.
Throughout the evening, others urged everyone to remember Crutcher as they saw him in life — and not as a policeman in a helicopter observed the night of his death, a “bad dude.”
“He’s always been known as Crutch, Big Crutch and even Fat Crutch,” Seals said during his speech. “I’ve known you pretty much all my life, and you’ve never been known as a bad dude, not a bad dude. We’re going to miss you, bro. We love you,” he said, his voice strained with emotion.
Though police didn’t know that night Crutcher had a family that loved him, that he was a Christian and loved to sing gospel music, Solomon-Simmons contended that Crutcher’s life mattered.
He said that’s why so many people attended his funeral, and why thousands were watching it live on video.
Seals, who is an assistant basketball coach at the University of Tulsa, said he grew up with Crutcher, living either down the block or on the same block as him.
“I feel very fortunate to have spent 40 years with him, but I’m also devastated,” Seals said. “I’m devastated because it should have been 40 more.”
Seals went on to talk about the impact Crutcher’s life had on the city — especially the significance of his death.
It was a theme that continued throughout the service. Officiating pastor Rev. Scott Gordon alluded to it before giving the microphone over to Rex.
Gordon said Crutcher told his dad, Joey Crutcher, he was going to be great. Since his death, his name has spread across the country. President Barack Obama even called to talk about him.
“He told his dad he was going to be great, and this is what he meant. He is great,” Gordon said.
During the service, Barbara Shannon described talking Terence Crutcher through his struggles in life, and commended him for always owning up to his issues.
“It didn’t matter what he was struggling with, his attitude never changed,” she said.
She added that his life had made a difference in the world, even if he’s not here to see it.
“A lot of good is going to come from this baby’s sacrifice,” Shannon said.
During the funeral, Solomon-Simmons called for “full justice” in Crutcher’s death, which he contended there was no justification for.
He said he wants a conviction for Shelby, appropriate sentencing and he wants the city to stand up and take care of Crutcher’s children.
Bartlett spoke during the service, addressing the family and saying “I’m so very sorry” on behalf of the whole city. He recalled a lunch he had with Antioch’s pastor, the Rev. M. C. Potter, and him saying he has buried too many people that he’s baptized.
“Too many young people have died in this community … and we must stand up and say, ‘no more,’” Bartlett said.