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‘I’ve never been so scared’: Jury watches distraught Betty Shelby recount fatal shooting

Paris Burris / Red Dirt Report
Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby exits the courtroom on the fourth day of her manslaughter trial Thursday.
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TULSA, Okla. — Betty Shelby fell to her knees and wept as she recounted the moment she fatally shot Terence Crutcher in a police interview video shown to the jury Thursday on the fourth day of the Tulsa cop’s manslaughter trial.

Shelby’s emotions in the video, which was taken three days after the Sept. 16 shooting, have been used by both the prosecution and defense in the case. Shelby, who is white, is charged with first-degree manslaughter in the heat of passion for killing Crutcher, who was black.

“So the evidence is shame on her for being upset for taking a life,” Defense Attorney Shannon McMurray told the jury on Wednesday. Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler has argued that Shelby overreacted out of fear and escalated her encounter with Crutcher by shooting him.

Shelby repeatedly stood up and sat down in the video as she told TPD Sgt. Dave Walker about what she remembered happening on the night of the shooting.

Walker testified that Shelby had a “natural reaction” to the situation. He also said that Shelby was shown police footage from the shooting before being interviewed because he wanted to get as accurate a statement as possible from her.

Shelby describes in the video that Crutcher had “zombie-paranoia-type behavior” and was mumbling as he walked away from her with his hands in the air, despite her commands to “Stop!” and “Get on your knees!”

Shelby had encountered Crutcher’s abandoned vehicle in the middle of the road in the 2300 block of 36th Street North in Tulsa. She told Walker in the video that she was investigating the running vehicle because it was blocking traffic.

As Crutcher eventually reached the driver’s side door of his Lincoln Navigator — where the window was halfway down, police have testified — Shelby told Walker that he lowered his arms and reached into the window with his left.

“And I shot him in the side in the chest,” Shelby, apparently crying, said in the video. She then collapsed to the floor, holding her face in her hands, and wept. “I’ve never been so scared.”

“I thought he was going to kill me,” she said. “There was a number of things he could’ve done if he reached that truck.”

Twelve other witnesses — all Tulsa Police officers with the exception of two Tulsa Community College professors — also gave unique testimonies Thursday.

TCC professors Shardyn Wallace and Michelle Ogan testified that they both encountered Crutcher, who was looking for a class, around 7 p.m. the night of the shooting.

Crutcher asked for help, and Wallace and Ogan assisted him. They learned his class was canceled, which led to another conversation about refunds between them. They said Crutcher left around 7:15 or 7:20 p.m., about 15 or 20 minutes before the shooting.

When asked if Crutcher appeared to be intoxicated, incoherent, or if he had otherwise unusual behavior, Wallace and Ogan said he was polite and communicative. Shelby told Walker in the video that Crutcher showed signs of being intoxicated on PCP — a hallucinogenic drug — before she shot him

TPD Senior Forensic Scientist Jason McGinnis testified that he tested a substance found in Crutcher’s vehicle and identified it as TCP, which is a similar drug to PCP. An autopsy report from the State Medical Examiner reports that Crutcher had “acute phencyclidine intoxication” at the time of his death.

Cpl. Wyett Poth told Tulsa County Assistant District Attorney Kevin Gray he was at the crime scene the night of the shooting.

"I told her not to say a word," Poth said of Shelby on the night of the shooting. "I knew there was going to be a group of people that didn't like what happened simply because of the color of somebody's skin."

Poth’s comment drew groans from the left side of the courtroom, which consisted mainly of Crutcher’s family, friends and supporters.

Poth said his reasoning for telling Shelby to stay silent was to ensure she “exercised her rights.”

McMurray also drew reactions from the courtroom after suggesting a screwdriver shown in a picture of the inside of Crutcher’s vehicle could have been used as a weapon, to which witness Cpl. Terrence Campbell replied, “Yes.”

Tiffany Dyer, a forensic analyst with the Tulsa Police Department, was dismissed as a witness shortly after taking the stand when McMurray pointed out the District Judge Doug Drummond that Dyer was not an endorsed witness.

Forensic Pathologist Andrea Wiens, who works with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, gave her testimony immediately after.

Wiens, who performed Crutcher’s autopsy, told Kunzweiler the bullet that killed Crutcher ripped a five-inch hole in his heart, broke a couple of his ribs and penetrated both of his lungs.

Given the position of the bullet under Crutcher’s right armpit, Wiens said Crutcher would have had his arms raised or out of the way.

McMurray challenged Wiens by asking her if it was possible Crutcher could have moved in a way to make that possible given that a Taser was deployed on him just before he was shot, to which Wiens replied, “That’s possible.”

Other witnesses described crime-scene evidence, including a measurement conducted by Sgt. Marcus Harper, who testified that Crutcher’s window was raised 10 ½ inches and was open 10 inches in height.

The trial is set to continue with Walker’s testimony at 9 a.m. Friday. The trial is expected to continue into next week.

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Paris Burris

Oklahoma City native Paris Burris started covering Tulsa news for Red Dirt Report in April 2017...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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