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Betty Shelby testifies: Terence Crutcher’s death was his fault

Paris Burris / Red Dirt Report
Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby exits a Tulsa County courtroom on the sixth day of her manslaughter trial on Monday.
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TULSA, Okla. — Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby testified Monday that she “did everything she could” to prevent herself from fatally shooting Terence Crutcher on Sept. 16.

Shelby’s somewhat unexpected testimony followed 20 state witnesses and 13 defense witnesses, which the jury heard from in the last five days of the Tulsa cop’s first-degree manslaughter trial in Crutcher’s death.

Shelby, 43, smiled widely as she took the witness stand and spelled her name for the court.

“I want to be the best officer I can be,” she told Defense Attorney Shannon McMurray, answering a question as to why she chose to take on extra training to become certified in several areas on top of her regular officer duties.

Shelby spoke calmly and carefully as she recounted the day she shot Crutcher.

Three minutes and 24 seconds spanned between when Shelby encountered Crutcher, 40, and his abandoned vehicle, to when she shot him.

However, it felt like more 15 minutes, Shelby said.

Even though Shelby did not see Crutcher with a weapon and no weapon was retrieved from his 2003 Lincoln Navigator, Shelby said she had “every indication” to believe Crutcher had a gun because she believed he was intoxicated on PCP, he reached toward his waistband multiple times, and despite her repeated commands for him to stop, he walked away from her.

“If someone has a gun then my thought is I need to have a gun,” Shelby said.

As Crutcher purportedly reached into the SUV’s window, Shelby shot him once just under his right armpit.

“I fired my gun because I was in fear for my life,” Shelby said.

Shelby intently looked at the jury of 12 — nine women and three men, including two black women and one black man — as she answered questions and avoided eye contact with Assistant District Attorney Kevin Gray.

“How many times have you practiced your testimony?” Gray asked.

After clarifying what the question meant, Shelby answered, “A thousand times in the last nine months.”

Gray asked why Shelby testified about having noticed a “chemical smell” on Crutcher indicative of PCP — a hallucinogen — but did not tell lead investigator Sgt. Dave Walker in her interview with him three days after the shooting, or in any other statements.

“I guess I forgot it that day,” Shelby said, also saying she told 60 Minutes correspondents about the smell, but that the segment did not air.

Shelby considered Crutcher a “passive threat” as he walked away from her toward his SUV, even though they did not engage physically. She said she couldn’t have used her Taser rather than her gun, because she was not trained to go “less lethal.”

Gray asked Shelby if she was trained to shoot a person without seeing evidence of a weapon, to which she also confirmed.

Gray asked Shelby if Crutcher’s death was his fault. “Yes,” Shelby said. Gray asked if his death was avoidable. “If he complied,” she said.

Shelby’s testimony was followed by Dr. Kris Mohandie, a clinical police and forensic psychologist, who told the jury that Shelby’s emotional reactions seen in a video of her interview with Walker was “completely natural.”

Parris Ward, who made a digitally recreated scenario of Shelby’s encounter with Crutcher, testified that he submitted four drafts of the video before it was finalized, basing revisions off of Shelby’s suggestions.

The trial is set to resume at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

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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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About Red Dirt Report

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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