TULSA, Okla.- The white Tulsa officer that shot and killed an unarmed black male last week has been charged with first-degree manslaughter on Thursday after the confrontation was captured on camera.
The officer, Betty Jo Shelby, 42, overreacted when Terence Crutcher, 40, wouldn’t listen to her commands and continued to walk away with his hands up. She was overcome with fear believing Crutcher was going to kill her.
An investigator for the Tulsa County district attorney’s office said in a report that Officer Shelby was “emotionally involved to the point that she overreacted.” The report also stated that the officer fired her gun without being able to see any physical evidence of Crutcher having a gun or weapon.
Officer Shelby is charged with committing manslaughter “in the heat of passion.” Per the New York Time, Oklahoma law defines such passion as a strong emotion, such as fear or anger, that exists to such a degree in a defendant that it affects “the ability to reason and render the mind incapable of cool reflection.” It is a sentence of no fewer than four years in prison for those found guilty of first-degree manslaughter.
At the time of his death Crutcher was unarmed and authorities say there were no weapons found in his car. The charge was filed against Officer Shelby after the Tulsa County district attorney, Stephen A. Kunzweiler, reviewed the video of the shooting from both the patrol car’s dashboard camera and from a helicopter that responded to the scene. He also reviewed 911 calls and witness interviews, along with other evidence.
Officer Shelby has been a Tulsa police officer since 2011. She has been on paid administrative leave since the incident. According to authorities, a warrant was issued for her arrest and arrangements are being made for her to surrender to the sheriff’s office.
Court documents said that due to Crutcher’s actions of not complying with Officer Shelby’s commands, her fear “resulted in her unreasonable actions” which led to her firing her weapon. Crutcher died from a single gunshot wound to the chest.
The incident that sparked unrest in North Carolina occurred last Friday when Officer Shelby was responding to a domestic violence call. She was passing through an intersection when she noticed Crutcher standing in the street with his vehicle blocking traffic lanes.
She was alone at the time and she stopped to approach Crutcher. When she asked him if the vehicle belonged to him he only mumbled to himself and did not answer.
The affidavit aslso stated that Crutcher kept putting his hands in his pockets, even as Officer Shelby told him to show her his hands. Crutcher walked towards his vehicle slowly with his hands up and refused to listen to her orders for him to stop walking.
She pulled her weapon as Crutcher walked to the driver’s side door and another officer arrived and told Officer Shelby he had his taser ready.
Crutcher reached into the driver’s side front window and that’s when Officer Shelby fired her gun while the other officer fired his taser.
There have been many disputes over this part of the story though. Lawyers of Crutcher’s family say the window of the driver’s side was up not down at that time. The two different videos of the confrontation do not show the moment of the shooting.
Federal prosecutors and F.B.I. agents are conducting a separate investigation to determine whether or not Crutcher’s civil rights were violated.