Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby was quickly whisked through the Tulsa Jail overnight, spending 20 minutes in custody before being released after posting $50,000 bail.
Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler announced on Thursday during a surprise press conference that Shelby would face first-degree manslaughter charges for the Sept. 16 fatal shooting of Terence Crutcher. Crutcher, 40, was unarmed when Shelby shot him one time in the chest.
Shelby’s attorney, Scott Wood, was in Chicago on Thursday, but spoke to The Frontier early Friday about his client. He said Shelby has “received an outpouring of support.”
“I’ve had calls from experts and other people from all over the country offering to help,” Wood said. He said Shelby was very upset and surprised when she heard about the charges but is doing better now. Shelby is also getting getting support from police “locally and all over the country,” Wood said.
Crutcher’s family said Thursday that while they were pleased with the charge being filed, they still have heavy hearts.
Tiffany Crutcher, Terence’s twin sister, said her brother was a good man who deserved a better fate than he got that night, when Shelby shot him once in the chest, leaving him dead on the street.
“While we are pleased to learn that the officer who senselessly killed my beloved twin brother will face criminal charges for this horrendous act, we understand that nothing will bring back our father, our son, our brother, our nephew, our cousin,” she said during a press conference Thursday after charges against Shelby were announced.
Shelby is the second Tulsa law enforcement officer in less than two years to be charged by Kunzweiler with an on-duty shooting, and Kunzweiler may be one of the few, if not the only, district attorneys in the country to have filed charges against two law enforcement officers in such incidents.
A jury convicted former Tulsa County Sheriff’s Reserve Deputy Robert Bates in April of second-degree manslaughter and sentenced him to four years. Bates was charged in the April 2015 death of Eric Harris, during a botched gun sting. Bates claimed he meant to use his Taser but instead fired his gun.
Harris’ shooting also sparked national outrage after release of the video, largely because when Harris said he couldn’t breathe, a deputy replied “fuck your breath.”
“I do not know why things happen in this world the way they do,” an emotional Kunzweiler said during his press conference Thursday. “We need to pray for wisdom and guidance on each of our respective paths in life. Each of us at the end of our days will have to account for our own actions.
“The only way I know how to walk my path is to try every day to pray and to serve my fellow citizens so that he or she may be lifted up.”
Damario Solomon-Simmons, an attorney for the Crutcher family, said Thursday that while the Crutchers are pleased with the criminal charge, they know justice “is a long walk.”
“When we saw that video we knew there was no reason for Terence to be shot down in the street,” Solomon-Simmmons said. “We knew that if (Tulsa Police) did their job and presented the evidence fairly and transparently to the DA’s office, it was readily apparent that officer Shelby had to be charged, because a crime had been committed.”
Shelby’s husband, Dave Shelby, was in the helicopter that recorded the shooting, police said earlier this week. Dave Shelby was not the pilot, Public Information Officer Shane Tuell said, but was an “observer” who sits in the helicopter and watches the video feed.
The helicopter recording captured the pilot referring to Crutcher as “a bad dude,” a comment that has been criticized nationally.
Your financial support for our investigative journalism is now tax deductible. To become a Friend of The Frontier, click here.