2016-09-23 ne-crutcherpress01

Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler stands with sheriff’s deputies before announcing that his office was filing a manslaughter charge against Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby on Thursday. IAN MAULE/Tulsa World


Officer Betty Jo Shelby turned herself in to authorities in the shooting death of Terence Crutcher early Friday and was released on bond about 30 minutes later.

Shelby, 42, surrendered with an attorney at the Tulsa Jail about 1 a.m., according to an arrest report. She was booked into the jail at 1:11 a.m and posted $50,000 bond at 1:31 a.m., jail records show.

A warrant was issued for Shelby's arrest after the Tulsa County District Attorney's Office filed a first-degree manslaughter — heat of passion charge against her Thursday. Her first court date is scheduled for Sept. 30.

A Medical Examiner's Office report released Friday states that the manner of death for Crutcher is homicide via gunshot to the chest. The toxicology report and autopsy results are not yet completed.


The story below originally appeared in Friday's edition of the Tulsa World.


The Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office filed a first-degree manslaughter charge Thursday against Officer Betty Shelby in the fatal shooting of Terence Crutcher six days earlier.

District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said during a brief news conference that a warrant has been issued for the arrest of Shelby, 42, who is expected to turn herself in to authorities.

Kunzweiler released a probable cause affidavit from the Tulsa Police Department, which notes that the first backup officer to arrive told Shelby that he had his Taser ready to use.

“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,” according to the affidavit.

Crutcher, 40, was unarmed when Shelby shot him once in the upper right chest next to his stopped SUV on 36th Street North near Lewis Avenue at 7:44 p.m. Sept. 16. He was pronounced dead at a hospital less than an hour later.

“The tragic circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Crutcher are on the hearts and minds of many people in this community,” Kunzweiler told reporters.

“It is important to note that despite the heightened tensions felt by all — which seemingly beg for an emotional reaction — our community has consistently demonstrated a willingness to respect the judicial process. It is the shared responsibility of all who have the ability to control their actions to do just that.”

Shelby’s charge is the second Kunzweiler has filed in less than two years against a law enforcement officer who killed someone while on duty.

Kunzweiler filed a second-degree manslaughter charge against former Tulsa County Reserve Deputy Robert Bates in the April 2015 shooting of Eric Harris during an undercover operation in north Tulsa. Bates resigned from his post and was convicted a year later, receiving the maximum four-year prison sentence for the charge.

Shelby faces one count of manslaughter committed in the heat of passion, or in the alternative, while resisting a person’s attempt to commit a crime. First-degree manslaughter carries a sentence of four years to life in the custody of the Department of Corrections, according to Oklahoma law.

If convicted, Shelby would have to serve at least 85 percent of her sentence before becoming eligible for parole.

The probable cause affidavit

The affidavit, signed by lead investigator Doug Campbell, states that Shelby told detectives she was in fear for her life and thought Crutcher would kill her. Shelby reportedly told investigators she was yelling repeatedly for Crutcher to get on his knees as he walked toward his SUV.

Dash cam and police helicopter footage shows Crutcher walking to the SUV. His hands were raised while Shelby followed him with a gun pointed at his back. The videos show that at least three officers had either a gun or a Taser drawn when Crutcher stood next to the driver’s side door.

Shelby said in her interview with detectives that she saw Crutcher reach into the driver’s side front window before she shot him. Campbell wrote in the affidavit that the videos show that Crutcher’s right hand was up and that his left hand was “unobservable” in the videos at the time he was shot.

“Although Mr. Crutcher was wearing baggy clothes, Officer Shelby was not able to see any weapons or bulges indicating (any) weapon was present,” Campbell wrote.

Defense of Shelby

The Tulsa World reached out to attorney Scott Wood, who has represented Shelby, for his reaction to the charge. Wood, who is out of town on business, said he would make a statement when he returns Friday morning.

Wood previously told the World the situation unfolded for nearly two minutes before the video recordings began. No one else was around when Shelby pulled up while en route to another call, he said.

Crutcher’s SUV was straddling the center line with its engine running and doors open, “so she isn’t really sure what’s going on,” Wood said. He said Shelby cleared — or checked — the SUV from the driver’s side and was about to clear the passenger side when Crutcher first approached.

Crutcher “had his head tilted down but eyes up and fixated on her,” Wood said, adding that she said Crutcher mumbled incoherently when she asked him whether the SUV belonged to him.

He said Crutcher repeatedly didn’t respond to Shelby’s questions or follow her commands. Crutcher, he said, reached toward or into his pockets several times despite Shelby’s telling him repeatedly not to do so.

Wood said Shelby, who has completed drug-recognition expert training, believed that Crutcher was acting like a person who might be under the influence of PCP. Police have since said a small vial of PCP was found inside the vehicle, but whether Crutcher had any of the drug in his system remains unknown until a toxicology screen is completed and the results made public.

Shelby was concerned that Crutcher kept reaching toward his pockets, Wood said, because someone carrying a weapon will often touch it to make sure it’s still there.

She drew her handgun after Crutcher walked toward the passenger side of her police car and started to put his hand in his left pocket, Wood said. She then radioed dispatch to report that she was with a person who wasn’t complying with her demands, he said.

“He never makes any response to her,” Wood said.

The backup officer arrived and drew his Taser, Wood said. The Taser deployment and gunshot were simultaneous because both officers perceived the same threat, he said.

“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 said.

A long road ahead

Attorneys for Crutcher’s family assembled outside the courthouse a couple of hours after the charge was announced to meet with a large assembly of reporters.

Damario Solomon-Simmons discussed how Thursday was just the first step in a long walk toward justice.

“We know that nothing that happens — not charges, not convictions, not sentencing — nothing will bring Terence back,” Solomon-Simmons said. “We know that while this may be a day where justice has begun, it’s still a sad day because at the same time the DA was identifying the charges, this family was at the funeral home preparing to bury Terence.

“Never lose sight of that.”

A reporter asked whether Crutcher bore any of the blame for the escalation of his encounter with Shelby because he didn’t comply with her demands.

“The police encounter people every day who fail to comply with instruction, whether it’s a DUI or a public intoxication or any situation,” attorney Melvin Hall said. “The law does not authorize the use of lethal force merely because someone fails to comply.”

Tiffany Crutcher, Terence Crutcher’s twin sister, demanded a “full prosecution,” saying a charge without a conviction isn’t enough. She said the chains of injustice and police brutality will break in Tulsa, with everyone from all walks of life joining in.

“We want for everyone — the community and the world — to lock arms with us as we go out and make everyone aware that today we can change this nation,” Tiffany Crutcher said. “We can heal this nation.”

‘There’s no celebration’

Marq Lewis, leader of local activist group We The People Oklahoma, said after Kunzweiler’s news conference that he was happy about the charge against Shelby. However, he added that “there’s no celebration because Terence is still deceased. There’s no celebration.

“But what there is, is there’s a relief and an ease that the system has worked and the system is working. And that’s something that the community has to believe in, when the system works as you guys know that we went through this with the Bob Bates situation. The system is working. It’s good to see that.”

Shelby will be moved to unpaid administrative leave from paid leave because she now has been charged with a crime.

Officer Tyler Turnbough, who deployed his Taser at Crutcher almost simultaneously with Shelby’s gunshot, isn’t on leave nor the subject of a criminal investigation. But his and Shelby’s actions will be evaluated by the Tulsa Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit to determine whether he violated the agency’s use-of-force policy.

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Samantha Vicent

918-581-8321

samantha.vicent@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @samanthavicent

Corey Jones

918-581-8359

corey.jones@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @JonesingToWrite

Staff Writer

Samantha covers topics including marijuana in Oklahoma, Tulsa County District Court proceedings, law enforcement use of force and the Oklahoma prison system, including the death penalty. Phone: 918-581-8321

Corey is a general assignment reporter who specializes in coverage of man-made earthquakes, criminal justice and dabbles in enterprise projects. He excels at annoying the city editor. Phone: 918-581-8359

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