Terence Crutcher was on the way home when his vehicle stalled. He was unarmed. His hands were in the air. So why did police end up killing him instead of helping him?
Terence Crutcher, a 40-year-old Tulsa, Oklahoma resident, was on his way home when his vehicle stalled in the middle of the road Friday night. But after police responded to the call of an “abandoned” vehicle blocking the road, Crutcher ended up dead.
He never received help. He was unarmed. And police have confirmed there was not a gun in his vehicle.
Now, newly released video of his encounter with Tulsa police officers is going viral and reigniting the conversation around police brutality and practices that often lead to the deaths of Black men, women and children. The disturbing video, released Monday by the police department, has prompted a criminal investigation into the shooting and a federal Justice Department civil rights investigation.
One look at the graphic video, and it’s clear why.
While initial reports state Crutcher refused to comply to orders to raise his hands, the video, taken from dashcams and police helicopter cameras, show Crutcher with his hands above his head, walking away from the officers. After he places his hands on the vehicle, he is first Tasered by one officer and then shot by another.
The officer who discharged her weapon has been identified as Betty Shelby. Shelby, a member of the Tulsa police department since 2011, has been placed on paid administrative leave.
According to the New York Times, Shelby’s lawyer said the officer thought Crutcher was armed. Crutcher, attorney Scott Wood said, was acting erratically and refused to comply with Shelby’s orders. Before he was shot, Crutcher was said to have reached inside his car window.
There was no gun.
“I’m going to tell you right now, there was no gun on the suspect or in the suspect’s vehicle,” Police Chief Chuck Jordan said at a press conference Monday afternoon. “I want to assure our community and I want to assure all of you and people across the nation watching this: We will achieve justice.”
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Officer Shelby called for backup after arriving on the scene. Crutcher was shot less than 30 seconds after the second car arrives, the Times notes.
Even more disturbing is the language used to profile Crutcher, which can be heard clearly on the video.
“He’s got his hands up there for her now,” one officer aboard the helicopter can be heard saying. “This guy is still walking and following commands.” “Time for a Taser, I think,” a second officer in the helicopter can be heard saying.
“I got a feeling that’s about to happen,” said the first officer, identified by Mr. Wood as Officer Shelby’s husband, Dave Shelby.
“That looks like a bad dude, too,” the second officer said.
That “bad guy,” was a lovable, god-fearing man who had just enrolled into Tulsa Community College, his twin sister Tiffany told USA Today.
“He just wanted to make us proud. That ‘big bad dude’ loved God,” she said. “We ask for facts, we ask for answers, and we clearly got it through the video and we are devastated. The entire family is devastated.”
Through their lawyer, Benjamin L. Crump, the family has requested a thorough investigation into the shooting.
“This is an issue that is not unique to Tulsa, Oklahoma,” Mr. Crump said. “This is an issue that seems to be an epidemic happening all around America. What are we as an American society going to do about it?”
An investigation continues.
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