Anger grows in Tulsa as police release video of fatal shooting of unarmed black man

By: Kristi Eaton and Jaweed Kaleem, Los Angeles Times

 

tulsa-police-photoIn this photo from a Sept. 16 police video, Terence Crutcher, left, is followed by police in Tulsa, Okla., moments before an officer shot and killed him. (Tulsa Police Department)

terrance-crutcher-with-his-sister-tiffany-crutcherTerrance Crutcher with his sister, Tiffany Crutcher

 

A fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man by a white officer has reopened fresh wounds in this city with a fraught history among African Americans, white residents and police officers.

A graphic police video shows Terence Crutcher, 40, being fatally shot by a police officer Friday night as he walks with his hands up toward his SUV, stalled out in the middle of the road.

The incident quickly became the latest flashpoint in a string of controversial police shootings of Black Americans. Protesters chanted Tuesday evening in downtown Tulsa, the ACLU asked that criminal charges be filed against the officer, and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton said news of the shooting was “unbearable.”

“We have got to tackle systemic racism,” Clinton said on “The Steve Harvey Morning Show.” “This horrible shooting again. How many times do we have to see this in our country?”

An attorney for Officer Betty Shelby, who shot Crutcher after responding to a dispatch call about an abandoned car, said Crutcher failed to heed police commands and that she and another officer, Tyler Turnbough, felt threatened and fired simultaneously. Turnbough used a stun gun.

The city’s police chief, who released both helicopter and dash-cam video of the shooting, called the images “disturbing” and vowed to “achieve justice.”

Protesters quickly demanded that Shelby to be fired, and the Crutcher family called for criminal charges against the officer, who has been put on routine administrative leave. The Department of Justice has opened a civil rights investigation and local authorities are independently investigating the shooting.

The last night of life for Crutcher, a father of four who was on his way home from a class at Tulsa Community College, began with a pair of 911 calls reporting an abandoned car with its engine running and doors open in the middle of the road.

“I got out and was like, ‘Do you need help?’ reported one caller, who said Crutcher “took off running” after asking her to “come here, come here,” and saying the car was going to “blow up.”

“I think he’s smoking something,” the same caller said.

Police videos show Crutcher walking toward his SUV with his hands up. Four officers, three male and one female, approach Crutcher he walks to the driver’s side and seems to lower his hands and put them on the car. The dash-cam video is blocked by officers, and Crutcher is partially blocked by his own car in the the helicopter video, making it difficult to see his movements. A man in the helicopter video suggests it’s “time for a Taser” before saying, “That looks like a bad dude, too. Probably on something.”

Within seconds, Crutcher drops to the ground. “Shots fired!” a woman yells on police radio as officers slowly back away while holding their guns up. Officers wait more than two minutes before approaching Crutcher again.

He was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.

Police say the videos did not capture Shelby arriving on the scene because she did not turn her dash cam on.

Shelby’s attorney, Scott Wood, says that when she showed up and asked Crutcher whether the car was his, he did not respond. Crutcher put his hands in his pockets as he walked toward her, then removed them and put his hands up before walking toward the back of her patrol car and putting his hands back in his pockets, Wood said.

He said she planned to arrest Crutcher, who she thought was intoxicated, and called dispatch. Crutcher did not comply when Shelby took out her gun and told him to get on his knees, but instead walked toward his car, the attorney said.

Wood said Shelby fired her gun at the same time that Turnbough fired a Taser at Crutcher because she had “tunnel vision” and did not realize other officers had arrived on scene.

“When unarmed people of color break down on the side of the road, we’re not treated as citizens needing help. We’re treated as, I guess, criminals — suspects that they fear,” said Benjamin Crump, one of the attorneys representing the Crutcher family.

 

 

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