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Jury views shooting video, officers testify at Tulsa cop’s manslaughter trial

Paris Burris / Red Dirt Report
Tiffany Crutcher, Terence Crutcher’s twin sister, walks through the halls of the Tulsa County Courthouse Wednesday during the third day of Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby’s manslaughter trial.
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TULSA, Okla. — Leanna Crutcher wiped a tear away from her eye as she watched a video of her son get fatally shot by Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby on Sept. 16.

Shelby, 43, faces a first-degree manslaughter charge in the heat of passion for 40-year-old Terence Crutcher’s death, which sparked national outrage and debate in its wake. If found guilty, Shelby, who is white, faces up to life in prison for shooting Crutcher, who was black.

The video was shown to a room mixed with both Crutcher’s and Shelby’s family, friends and supporters, as well as local and national journalists Wednesday afternoon during the third day of the trial in the Tulsa County Courthouse.

As a jury of 12 — made up of nine women and three men, including two black women and one black man as an alternate — watched the dash-camera footage from the shooting, some held their hands over their mouths or grimaced. Others took notes or rubbed their foreheads.

Tulsa County District Attorney Kevin Gray began his opening statement by telling jurors “It was just a couple of minutes.”

Gray, referring to the circumstances that led up to the shooting, said “It was not an unusual day for Terence Crutcher. It was not an unusual day for Betty Shelby.”

Gray explained that Shelby, who had just finished eating dinner with her colleagues at the Tulsa Police Department’s Gilcrease Division in north Tulsa, had been dispatched to serve as backup on a domestic disturbance call.

Shelby encountered Crutcher and his abandoned vehicle on her way to the disturbance, and after calling dispatch the abandoned vehicle, she got out of her car and asked Crutcher if the car was his.

After Crutcher repeatedly did not reply to her questions and walked around, she commanded Crutcher to “Stop!” and to show his hands. She called for backup, saying she had a subject who wouldn’t show her his hands.

Crutcher walked away from Shelby with his hands up, and when he reached his vehicle, he simultaneously was shot once by Shelby and had a Taser deployed on him twice by another officer who had arrived just seconds before as backup.

Gray tried to convince the jury that Shelby had overreacted out of fear and escalated the situation.

“You will have to decide whether what happened in a couple minutes is worthy of a guilty verdict,” he said.

Defense Attorney Shannon McMurray told the jury that evidence would show “Somebody did act unreasonably … Steve Kunzweiler,” referring to the Tulsa County district attorney who charged Shelby on Sept. 22.

McMurray focused on Shelby’s reputation in her 10-year career as a police officer, saying that she’s dedicated 10,400 hours of training to become a drug recognition expert, emergency medical technician, training officer and dive team member.

“That’s Betty Shelby,” McMurray said.

McMurray insisted Shelby had a responsibility to respond to the abandoned car on the day of the shooting because of her oath to serve and protect the public. And when Crutcher did not follow her commands, she felt a threat, she said.

“She gave him every opportunity to comply,” McMurray said. “Action needs reaction.”

Six witnesses — all Tulsa Police officers who were on the scene either during or after the shooting occurred — testified about how they experienced that night. Those who were on the scene recounted that Crutcher was not complying with Shelby’s commands, walking away from her and reaching into his pockets.

Three witnesses testified that they saw Crutcher reach his left hand into his vehicle’s driver-side window. However, police footage of the incident does not clearly show Crutcher reach into the vehicle.

Crutcher’s alleged action, which led her to believe he may have been reaching for a weapon, is what ultimately led Shelby to shoot him, McMurray said.

Testimonies are scheduled to continue at 9 a.m. Thursday.

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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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