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Tulsa Officer Betty Shelby was ‘in control’ when she shot Terence Crutcher, detective testifies

Paris Burris / Red Dirt Report
Leanna Crutcher, left, and Tiffany Crutcher, right, wait for an elevator at the manslaughter trial for Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby Friday.
Fertile Ground Compost Service

TULSA, Okla. — A lead homicide detective testified Friday that he saw an “officer in control” when he watched helicopter footage of Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby fatally shooting Terence Crutcher on Sept. 16.

Tulsa Police Sgt. Dave Walker told Defense Attorney Shannon McMurray that Shelby appeared to be in control because she held her gun stably in her hands and kept an appropriate distance away from Crutcher.

Shelby encountered Crutcher’s abandoned Lincoln Navigator in the middle of a frequently traveled Tulsa road in the 2300 block of 36th Street North.

Shelby, in her interview with Walker three days after the shooting, told him she shot and killed Crutcher because she thought he was reaching into his vehicle’s driver’s side window to retrieve a gun to shoot her with.

No firearms were found in Crutcher’s vehicle.

A key argument in the trial is whether Crutcher’s hands were up, down, reaching into the vehicle, or a combination of those when he was shot. He can be seen in police footage walking away from Shelby with his hands raised above his head, but it is unclear whether footage clearly shows his left arm reach into the window or whether his right arm is lowered.

Tiffany Crutcher testified her twin brother was right-handed during a brief stint on the witness stand, after which she walked out of the courtroom in tears.

During her testimony, which lasted a few minutes, Crutcher told Assistant District Attorney Kevin Gray her brother frequently wore sunglasses because he did not prefer people to see his prosthetic right eye, which was caused from a phthisis bulbi, or shrunken, non-functioning eye.

Grey showed Crutcher a picture of her brother and asked her to describe it for the jury.

“That’s a picture of my twin brother at church,” she said.

The state rested its case about 11 a.m., which was followed by an attempt by McMurray to convince District Judge Doug Drummond to drop the case, arguing that self-defense was a key issue.

Drummond overruled McMurray’s request.

McMurray also asked Drummond to allow the defense to talk in detail about Terence Crutcher’s criminal past, but Drummond ruled to only allow references to four past encounters with police without using specifics.

“What you’re trying to get in is just too prejudiced at this point,” Drummond told McMurray.

Shelby was unaware of Crutcher’s criminal past at the time of the shooting.

“Betty Shelby was an exceptional officer,” said Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado, who worked with Shelby, as he testified. “Someone you could count on in stressful situations.”

TCSO Cpl. Marshall Eldridge, who knows Shelby from when she went through training to become a drug recognition expert, described “alarming” behavior he witnessed from Shelby after she received a failing grade on an exam during the drug recognition program.

Although the grade she was given — a 0 percent — didn’t affect her overall class grade, Eldridge testified that Shelby yelled, screamed and cried as she eventually left the room. Someone had to talk her down, he said.

Eldridge said the incident didn’t change his opinion of her and that she apologized for her behavior.

District Attorney’s Office investigator Doug Campbell defended his statement in a probable cause affidavit that he believed Shelby reacted unreasonably by escalating the situation. He testified that he thought so because of the tone of her voice in a video interview with Walker.

Janelle White testified that she called 911 on the day of the shooting after encountering Crutcher and his abandoned vehicle.

“He said, ‘Come here, come look,’” as he opened his driver’s side door, White told McMurray. As Crutcher reached under the driver’s side seat in the car, White had a bad feeling and told Crutcher, “I’m out.”

Crutcher then ran toward White while yelling, “It’s gonna blow!” and “It’s on fire!”

She ran to her car, left, and called 911, she said.

Drummond adjourned around 4:30 p.m. and the trial is set to resume at 10 a.m. Monday.

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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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