Shelby: Crutcher would still be alive if he would have communicated, listened to commands

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    Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby, center, is on trial for first-degree manslaughter. She took the stand in her own defense on Monday. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier

If Terence Crutcher would have communicated and listened to Betty Shelby’s demands, he wouldn’t be dead, Shelby testified Monday.

“Is Terence Crutcher’s death his fault?” Kevin Gray, assistant district attorney asked during cross-examination.

“Yes,” Shelby said.

Shelby was calm and upbeat when she testified for about two hours. Prior to Shelby taking the witness stand Monday morning, it had been unknown whether she would testify in the trial.

Shelby testified that following the incident wherein she fatally shot Crutcher, she was “amazed” it happened.

“Because I had done what I could to keep this from happening,” Shelby said.

When Shelby first encountered Crutcher he was standing in the road with his arms at his sides and chin tucked into his chest, Shelby testified.

“He’s motionless,” she said.

Shortly after, Shelby encountered Crutcher’s SUV and did a scan to check for occupants, she testified. As she moved to the back of the car, Crutcher was approaching. Shelby asked him whether the vehicle was his, but he didn’t answer, Shelby said.

Shelby said Crutcher kept putting his hands in his pockets, an indicator he had a gun. However, investigators later found Crutcher had no weapons on himself or in his car.

When Shelby told him to take his hands out from his pockets, he put his hands up in the air, Shelby said.

“It was odd because no one has done that before,” Shelby said of Crutcher putting his hands up before she commanded him to.

Crutcher was staring down at her with a “scowl” on his face, sweating, and wouldn’t listen to commands to get on his knees, Shelby said.

When he walked over to the driver’s side of his SUV, his hands started to lower and reach through the window, Shelby testified.

“Why did you fire,” asked defense attorney Shannon McMurray.

“Because I was in fear for my life and that he was reaching for a gun to kill me,” Shelby said.

During cross-examination, Gray asked Shelby why she didn’t instead use a Taser. Shelby said because she believed Crutcher had a gun, she didn’t want to choose a less lethal weapon.

Gray said although Shelby testified she met a gun with a gun, she had never seen a gun on Crutcher.

“You’re meeting a guess about a gun with a gun,” Gray said.

“Yes,” Shelby replied.

Shelby got emotional in an interview with TPD Sgt. David Walker during an interview three days after the shooting last September, where she cried and fell to the floor.

Shelby testified Monday that she had gotten emotional because she was telling the story of what happened and “a man died.” Just before her interview with Walker, she watched the video of herself fatally shooting Crutcher for the first time, she said.

“It made me sad,” Shelby said of seeing the video.

Prosecutors point to incorrect, missing details of Shelby’s account

During cross-examination, Gray pointed to a few details Shelby either got wrong in her retelling of what happened during her encounter with Crutcher or details she left out completely.

During Shelby’s interview with Walker last September, she told him Crutcher was 6-foot tall (he’s 5′ 9″) and 300 pounds (he weighed about 260).

“It was an estimate,” Shelby told Gray.

On direct examination, Shelby testified she could smell PCP chemicals, a hallucinogen, on Crutcher the evening she shot him.

An autopsy report showed PCP in Crutcher’s system.

Asked during cross-examination why she didn’t tell investigators or Walker she smelled the chemicals on Crutcher, Shelby said she forgot about the detail.

Shelby said she mentioned it in her 60 Minutes interview on April 2, but that portion of the interview didn’t air.

“I’m not the editor of the 60 Minutes,” Shelby said.

Experts testify

Shelby’s emotional state during her interview with Walker last September was a normal reaction, said Kris Mohandie, a clinical police and forensics psychologist.

Mohandie, one of two experts brought by the defense on Monday, said he met with Shelby for more than an hour in February while compiling his report on her reaction to fatally shooting Crutcher.

“That emotional reaction has nothing to do with her state of mind when the shooting occurred,” Mohandie said of Shelby crying during her interview with Walker.

Officers have different reactions as they process traumatic events, Mohandie testified. They often react how they’re trained to during the incident, then come to terms with what happened later, he said.

When Shelby was charged last September, District Attorney’s Office investigator Doug Campbell wrote in his affidavit that he believed Shelby became too “emotional” during her encounter with Crutcher, which led to her shooting him.

During cross-examination, Gray asked whether Mohandie gave Shelby a formal psychiatric exam before he came to the conclusion that Shelby’s reaction to her encounter with Crutcher was normal, and Mohandie said no.

Mohandie said Shelby’s reaction was “an emotional state, not a trait.”

Prosecutors have maintained that Shelby got special treatment following the shooting because she is a police officer. She didn’t have to interview with police until three days after the incident, and Walker showed her video of her encounter with Crutcher beforehand.

Mohandie said the International Association of Chiefs of Police protocol calls for giving an officer a few days to digest an incident before an interview.

Shelby might have forgotten details about the incident, such as the smell of PCP, because “she didn’t sleep well” the weekend following the shooting.

As for showing the video to Shelby before her interview with Walker, Mohandie said he believed it was good practice and helped with Shelby’s recollection of the incident. However, he said he wouldn’t use the same practice of a civilian who had shot someone.

Mohandie has appeared on multiple TV shows, Gray pointed out during cross-examination. One show, “Is O.J. Innocent? The Missing Evidence,” explores alternative theories in the murder of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman.

In another show, “Most Evil,” Mohandie explores acts committed by infamous criminals and rates the crimes on a “scale of evil.”

Our original story from Monday is below

When Betty Shelby shot Terence Crutcher last September, she was thinking of a law enforcement training video showing a suspect taking a weapon from his car and killing the officer involved, Shelby testified Monday.

“Training impacted me so much that I saw the video in my head,” Shelby said of her interaction with Crutcher last September.

Prior to Shelby taking the witness stand Monday morning, it had been unknown whether she would testify in the trial.

During her law enforcement training, Shelby was told if a suspect reaches into a car, don’t allow them to reach their arm back out because they could have a weapon, she said.

“They made a commitment, I have to react to what they’re already committed to,” Shelby testified. “I have to be faster.”

During her law enforcement career, Shelby said she has drawn her gun “dozens of times,” but never fired until her encounter with Crutcher.

The question of whether Crutcher’s window was rolled up or down has remained controversial since the shooting occurred last September. Police have said the window was partially down, and Crutcher was reaching into his car when Shelby shot him. Attorneys for the Crutcher family held a press conference last September claiming the window was rolled up.

Jurors so far have seen images showing all four windows at least partially down.

During testimony, Shelby went over her law enforcement training, which included tactical defense. Her testimony about what happened the night she shot Crutcher, which was paused for lunch, is expected to continue Monday afternoon.

Testimony about Crutcher’s criminal record
Three witnesses testified Monday morning about Crutcher’s past encounters with law enforcement.

One witness, who worked for Wal-Mart loss prevention, was dismissed before getting into any details about his interaction with Crutcher.

Jack Robison, an Oklahoma State University police officer, said he assisted in arresting Crutcher in April 2012.

Crutcher wouldn’t follow officer commands to show his hands, Robison said. Robison, one of two responding officers, said he was pointing a rifle at Crutcher, who was walking away from the officers.

“I got a glimpse at his eyes, and it was just a wild look,” Robison testified.

Robison said he tazed Crutcher twice, and another officer handcuffed him. Crutcher was later convicted of obstruction and public intoxication.

Drummond ruled last Friday that he would allow the jury to hear limited information on Crutcher’s criminal record. The ruling overturned a previous order, but only allowed defense attorneys to mention Crutcher’s history of obstruction and resisting arrest. Drummond said defense attorneys would not be allowed go into detail about those incidents.

Prosecutors opened the door to allowing conversation about Crutcher’s character when two Tulsa Community College employees testified on Thursday, Drummond said. The state asked the employees leading questions, he said.

Jurors can hear about Crutcher’s warrants
District Judge Doug Drummond ruled just before the break that jurors can hear that Crutcher had numerous warrants for his arrest at the time he was shot.

Defense attorney Shannon McMurray said Crutcher’s warrants could serve as an explanation for how he acted that night. Police have said that Crutcher wasn’t responding to officers’ commands to get on the ground or put his hands up.

Video recorded from a police helicopter showed Crutcher with his hands in the air, and Shelby, with her gun drawn, slowly walking toward Crutcher’s stalled SUV.

The SUV Crutcher was driving was registered under the name Joey Crutcher, his father, said Assistant District Attorney Kevin Gray. If an officer ran the license plate, they couldn’t have known about Crutcher’s warrants.

McMurray said the “inappropriate” tags could be explained by the warrants.

Drummond decided that talk of Crutcher’s warrants would be allowed, but defense attorneys couldn’t go into details about the warrants, such as why they were issued. The warrants also couldn’t be used to explain why Shelby acted as she did, but could be used to explain why Crutcher behaved as he did, Drummond said.

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Kassie McClung

Staff writer

Kassie McClung reports on health, criminal justice and other state issues. Contact: Kassie@readfrontier.com or 918-935-1044.
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