Betty Shelby, right, leaves the courtroom beside her attorney, Shannon McMurray. Shelby was ordered bound over for trial for first-degree manslaughter. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier

Betty Shelby, right, leaves a courtroom at the Tulsa County Courthouse beside her attorney, Shannon McMurray, on Nov. 29, 2016. Shelby was ordered bound over for trial for first-degree manslaughter. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier

Betty Shelby was bound over for trial on Tuesday following a preliminary hearing on the first-degree manslaughter charge she faces. A day before that hearing, her attorney (Shannon McMurray) and the lead investigator for her defense (Mike Huff) appeared on Pat Campbell’s radio show to discuss the case. What follows is a review of the statements made during the show.

Early in the interview, while discussing the events taking place prior to Shelby arriving at Crutcher’s vehicle, as well as immediately after, Shelby’s attorney, Shannon McMurray. said that Crutcher “was committing a misdemeanor and/or a felony.”

This is perhaps an unpopular statement, but it’s true. Police have said Crutcher’s vehicle contained a small vial of phenocyclidine (PCP) in the side door (the same door Crutcher allegedly reached into when he was shot by Shelby.) You can debate if a jury would have convicted him for the crime since it was technically not “on his person,” but the discovery of the drug would have likely led to an arrest. And since PCP is a schedule 1 narcotic, Crutcher would have more than likely been facing a felony charge.

Later in the interview, McMurray and Campbell discuss the affidavit filed by the district attorney’s office the day Shelby was charged. McMurray took issue with one specific portion, written by DA investigator Doug Campbell. “Lead investigator Doug Campbell states that he feels Betty Shelby got too emotional and therefore overreacted. Just reading it plainly it’s a sexist comment in my opinion only to undermine her mental state and her capabilities because she’s a female.”


Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office investigator Doug Campbell wrote in his affidavit that he thought Betty Shelby became “emotionally involved” and “overreacted,” leading up to the shooting of Terence Crutcher.

It’s not the first time someone has wondered aloud why Shelby was charged so quickly, while her male counterparts in other states have not beenAnd tagging a woman as “emotional” can be a dog-whistle term. At the same time, Tulsa is one of the few cities in the nation to not only charge a male officer with an on-duty shooting, but to earn a conviction.

Campbell later says that he’s “heard of a schism” between street cops and DA Steve Kunzweiler and Police Chief Chuck Jordan because they feel Kunzweiler and Jordan “didn’t have officer Shelby’s back.” Mike Huff, who is working with Shelby’s defense as an investigator, tells Campbell: “This is all fact-driven, these guys and gals are having a tough time right now to decide whether or not they want to be involved in law enforcement. They feel a bit betrayed, it’s very sad right now, in regards to this, it’s very raw. … I have heard that from the most senior officers and from officers just being on a year or so. So yeah that’s a pretty prevalent thought right now.”

That’s obviously a strong statement, but it’s undeniable that Huff, who worked for TPD for decades before retiring a few years ago, has many connections with the department. We reached out to Jordan this week, who declined to comment on the allegation. As for having Shelby’s back, Kunzweiler has maintained during his time as DA that his allegiance is to the law and how he interprets it. There have been other high-profile cases (like the Monroe Bird shooting) in the past where his office has not been swayed by public protests.

This photo of Terence Crutcher and his wife, Frenchel Johnson, along with their children at Christmas appears on the GoFundMe account set up in Terence's name.

This photo of Terence Crutcher and his wife, Frenchel Johnson, along with their children at Christmas appears on the GoFundMe account set up in Terence’s name.

While discussing what transpired prior to the helicopter and dash camera footage of the shooting, Huff tells Campbell: “That video that we all have seen is like reading one chapter of a book and trying to make an understanding of what the entire book is about. There is minutes before and days before sometimes that may be relevant … But there was a story before she felt the need to defend herself.” Campbell replies” “Are you talking about the gun?” Huff says: “She didn’t know about that, but it shows the propensity of this man’s daily activities and I think that’s relevant.”

What Huff is talking about is this. McMurray filed a motion in November after she said she contacted by a man who claimed Crutcher “fired shots” from a handgun while walking down the street the day before he was killed by Shelby. McMurray quickly sought to have the gun preserved as evidence and tested, though it’s questionable if it will ever make it into trial. Kunzweiler will surely argue that the gun and the allegation Crutcher had been firing it prior to his death is irrelevant.

Campbell then asks McMurray how she thought the gun and alleged incident would be germane to the criminal case against Shelby. She replies: “It may or may not be. If I can get it into evidence, it’s relevant in my mind to show propensity, lack of mistake, pattern, because he’s had a gun in his past.”

It’s unclear how McMurray intends to connect the gun to Crutcher’s shooting death. If it’s true that he was firing a handgun the day before he was killed, that’s clearly illegal as he had been convicted of drug trafficking, and felons in Oklahoma cannot even handle a firearm. But the gun was not on him the day he was killed, nor was it inside his vehicle. And while Shelby has said she didn’t know if Crutcher was armed that day, she also didn’t know about this alleged incident prior to her run-in with him. Arguing that he has a “propensity” for gun violence is likely an effort to sway potential jurors prior to the fact, as it’s unlikely any of this information makes it in front of a jury during Shelby’s eventual trial.

McMurray then tells Campbell that Crutcher was “a certified gang member. They carry guns regularly.”

I asked TPD Gang Unit Sgt. Sean Larkin about this. He said police records show Crutcher was certified as a 111 Neighborhood Crip, and belonged or had belonged at one point to a smaller set called “Main Street Crips.”

McMurray tells Campbell that she believes the dash cam video of the shooting showed Crutcher as being “intent on getting back to that car, he wants in that car.” Campbell asks her if it was “possible, that being high on PCP, which he was, maybe because he normally carries a gun, he thought he had a gun in that car?” McMurray replies, “That’s my point.”

The video is clear that Crutcher did walk back to his vehicle with Shelby (and other officers) trailing him. TPD Homicide Sgt. Dave Walker has testified that the vehicle’s windows were “somewhat down.” That would have allowed Crutcher to reach through the window, which is what Shelby has maintained Crutcher was doing when she shot him once in the chest. However, it seems just as likely that Crutcher, who an autopsy report confirmed had PCP in his system, was reaching through the window to remove the vial. Or it’s possible he was so out of his mind (witnesses have said he was yelling that his vehicle was going to explode, though it was in fine working order) that he didn’t know why he was going back to the vehicle in the first place.

Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler announces he has charged Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby with first-degree manslaughter. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier

Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler announces he has charged Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby with first-degree manslaughter. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier

Campbell later questions how Kunzweiler could have filed the charge against Shelby prior to his having received TPD’s full investigatory report on the shooting. He says the only other time he could think of that happening “would be Robert Bates … How can you reach a decision if you don’t have all the facts?” McMurray replies, “You can’t.”

It’s true that the charge came on Sept. 22, and Walker had told the media he expected to finish the full report on Sept. 23. In fact, Walker attended the press conference announcing Shelby was being charged, and he stayed in the office where the presser was held long after everyone had left, in order to read Campbell’s affidavit.

Homicide Sgt. Dave Walker reads a charging document on Sept. 22, 2016, after Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby was charged with first-degree manslaughter. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier

Homicide Sgt. Dave Walker reads a charging document on Sept. 22, 2016, after Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby was charged with first-degree manslaughter. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier

Kunzweiler has said since that day that he had been in communication with TPD investigators throughout the process, and had received the bulk of the report in small chunks. That, he said, combined with Campbell’s investigation allowed him to feel confident in filing the first-degree manslaughter charge.

Campbell then lays out a theory, alleging that Kunzweiler filed the charge or “was urged to do it as basically a pre-emptive strike to prevent us from turning into a Ferguson or a Baltimore.” McMurray replies that she didn’t disagree, and that “most officer-involved shooting investigations take weeks and months because they (are tasked with looking) at the totality of the circumstances under Supreme Court law. And how could you possibly evaluate the totality of the circumstances if you don’t have the total picture in front of you?”

This is interesting because a variation of Campbell’s theory was laid out during Tuesday’s preliminary hearing. McMurray told Special Judge Martha Rupp Carter that she had hoped to call TPD Chief Chuck Jordan as a witness, and that if he would “testify honestly,” he would say that he, Kunzweiler and Mayor Dewey Bartlett colluded to file the first-degree manslaughter charge to avoid riots. Kunzweiler, following the hearing, said that “did not happen.”

It is true that Shelby was charged much faster than anticipated, and that, at times, it can take months for charging decisions to be made. (In fact, an officer-involved shooting I covered from Tahlequah took nearly three months before the officer was cleared.) But decisions not to charge officers involved in shootings have also happened quickly when the evidence was clear enough, and Kunzweiler may argue that the Crutcher shooting was a clear case of a crime being committed.

McMurray later compares the case against Shelby to the well-known case against Robert Bates, a former Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office reserve deputy convicted earlier this year of an on-duty killing. She told Campbell she felt the two cases were entirely different, because Bates “was a reserve deputy, and he wasn’t a police officer, and he basically admitted right there on the scene that he accidentally pulled his … weapon instead of his taser, and that’s basically a confession of negligence.”

She’s right that Bates was a reserve deputy, but she’s wrong to imply that meant he was legally any different than Shelby at the time of their respective killings. Bates was fully autonomous as a reserve. Despite arguments that it was bad policy, Bates was allowed to patrol on his own, and to make arrests and traffic stops if he wanted. But it’s true that the admission she references was a key factor to Bates’ conviction that doesn’t apply to Shelby. Bates was recorded immediately after his incident saying “I shot him, I’m sorry.” He was eventually convicted of culpable negligence, meaning that while the shooting was an accident, it was one he was still criminally liable for.

Betty Shelby mugshot. Courtesy

Betty Shelby mugshot. Courtesy

Later in the interview, Campbell draws a distinction between regular citizens and police officers, and said that if a regular citizen draws a gun on a fleeing person, that person must be allowed to flee. But, Campbell said, had Shelby allowed Crutcher to get in his vehicle, he would have been behind the wheel of a “4,000-pound bullet. Who knows what he’s going to do and then you have a pursuit where you’re firing rounds at a moving vehicle. It’s like the cops cant win, you’re damned if you do damned if you don’t.”

Tulsa police policy does allow for the use of deadly force to stop a fleeing suspect, but with a caveat. The policy manual states that the officer has to determine what level or risk that use of deadly force would pose to the public. In this case, had Crutcher gotten in his vehicle and attempted to drive off, Shelby would have had to decide if allowing him to drive away was more or less dangerous than her shooting at him as he fled. The area the two were in is sparsely populated, but it’s not far from residential areas.

Tulsa Police Department policy manual on use of force.

Tulsa Police Department policy manual on use of force.

Also, policy states the officer must have “probable cause to believe that the person to be arrested has committed a crime involving the infliction or threatened infliction of serious physical harm, and the escape of the subject poses an imminent threat to the officer or others.” The argument could be made that an intoxicated Crutcher could have posed a threat to the public, but Shelby only suspected Crutcher was on PCP, and shooting him as he drove away could have very easily have resulted in Shelby being charged. However, it’s undeniable that immediately prior to the shooting, Crutcher had not “committed a crime involving the infliction or threatened infliction of serious physical harm.”

Huff later discusses TPD Homicide Sgt. Dave Walker, saying he thinks Walker (who McMurray has said was going to write a report saying that Shelby should not be charged) had “done a wonderful job … but this case in particular he was shut down … When the DA decides to file charges without your report, you know your word, your investigation, your thoughts … it has no bearing if the DA doesn’t even want your report.”

It’s unclear, but certainly feasible, that Walker was going to recommend Shelby not be charged. He was not allowed to testify about that during Tuesday’s hearing, and has not said yet what his final report said. Kunzweiler also didn’t say following Tuesday’s hearing what Walker’s final report looked like, but it wouldn’t have been the first time he’d gone against the wishes of an investigatory report. Kunzweiler famously charged Bates in 2015 with second-degree manslaughter despite a TCSO report calling the shooting of Eric Harris “justifiable homicide.”

As for the DA not wanting Walker’s report, Kunzweiler has argued that he had seen the bulk of Walker’s report before deciding to charge Shelby.

While awaiting Kunzweiler’s charging decision, attorneys for the Crutcher family held a press conference outside the Tulsa County Courthouse, alleging that the windows on Crutcher’s vehicle had been up during the shooting. That would have meant that he couldn’t possibly have reached through the window, an act Shelby’s attorneys have maintained triggered the shooting.

However, Walker testified during Tuesday’s hearing that the windows were all at least “somewhat down,” and McMurray said during her interview with Campbell that the images appearing to show them rolled up were “an optical illusion.” She said she believed the Crutcher family attorneys truly thought the windows were up, but she criticized Kunzweiler and Jordan for not quickly correcting those statements. “The fact that the prosecutor or chief Jordan didn’t come out and correct that gross mischaracterization when they knew that that wasn’t possible … was completely irresponsible on the part of the prosecution and Chuck Jordan.”

Attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons gestures toward an enlarged image taken from Tulsa Police Department footage of the shooting of Terence Crutcher. Crutcher's attorneys say the images show Crutcher's window was rolled up during the shooting. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier

Attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons gestures toward an enlarged image taken from Tulsa Police Department footage of the shooting of Terence Crutcher. Crutcher’s attorneys say the images show Crutcher’s window was rolled up during the shooting. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier

We wrote about the windows being down prior to Kunzweiler’s decision to charge Shelby, but we had to use an anonymous source within TPD because Kunzweiler will as a rule not comment on case specifics prior to a charge being filed, and the police department had placed at least an informal gag order on all officers. For instance, one of Shelby’s former supervisors had reached out to me to speak about how much her fellow officers respected her, but later declined the interview because he’d been instructed not to talk about Shelby or the case.

But it’s also true that the silence from Kunzweiler and Jordan is intended to quell speculation — a noble charge. But you could argue that not correcting false information led to further unwarranted speculation.

Finally, Campbell broaches the issue of race. Crutcher’s case, like many across the nation, involved the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by a white police officer. In the helicopter footage, the pilot (TPD Officer Michael Richert) was recorded saying Crutcher looked “like a bad dude,” a comment that was roundly criticized as being potentially racist.

In the radio interview, Campbell says: “Much was made of the comments from one of the officers in the helicopter about this being a big dude. People see me and think I’m a big dude, that’s not a racial thing … there was never any, nobody up in the helicopter used the n-word or anything like that. It was spun into something racial by the media, specifically the national media, CNN and others, making it into a racial story.” McMurray calls it “a valid comment,” saying Richert saw Crutcher walking back to his vehicle while ignoring commands, as well as a drawn firearm pointed at him.

While Campbell quoted Richert as saying “big dude,” the helicopter pilot actually said “bad dude,” a much more loaded phrase. The national media did briefly latch onto Richert’s phrasing, with articles from places like The Guardian, or the Baltimore Sun, writing about it.

After all, Richert could only see Crutcher (a large, black man) but at that time couldn’t yet have known anything about Crutcher’s past. Rep. Regina Goodwin criticized the comment in an interview with The Frontier, saying “What would possess him to say that? You’re bringing to this your preconceived notion of who we are, who black men are, and who black women are.”

It’s not the first time locally that an officer’s comments during a police-involved shooting were criticized. After Bates shot Eric Harris, Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office deputy Joseph Byars was recorded telling a dying Harris “Fuck your breath.” Byars testified during Bates’ trial that he hadn’t heard the gunshot and thought Harris was only complaining of loss of breath due to running from pursuing officers.

When it comes to Shelby’s upcoming trial, Richert’s comment will have little, if any, bearing. What will matter to jurors will be what took place on the ground, and if Crutcher’s alleged attempt to reach into his vehicle deserved a fatal gunshot.