Tulsa judge orders release of 911 calls from home of Terence Crutcher

The city was ordered to give attorneys all records of a police call to the home on Aug. 13, Crutcher’s birthday, as well as a call immediately before that date.

Donate

A Tulsa district judge has ordered the city to release records related to 911 calls to the home of Terence Crutcher, which could show whether the officer who shot him to death had been called to his home before.

During a hastily called hearing Friday, District Judge Kurt Glassco heard a motion by the city of Tulsa, which sought to avoid turning over records of police calls to Crutcher’s north Tulsa home. Glassco ordered the city to produce all records of a call to the home on Aug. 13, Crutcher’s birthday, as well as a call immediately before that date.

He also reminded attorneys for Crutcher’s estate, widow and parents that during a hearing Tuesday over the estate, “I do not want to harm these people any more than they’ve already been harmed.”

Crutcher was shot and killed by Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby on a north Tulsa street Sept. 16. The shooting drew nationwide attention after video was released that showed Crutcher walking away from Shelby with his hands up before he was shot.

Shelby has been charged with first-degree manslaughter and has pleaded not guilty.

During Friday’s hearing, an attorney for Crutcher’s widow, Dan Smolen, said he believes Shelby may have responded to police calls at the couple’s home in the past. However no details of those calls were discussed.

Tuesday’s hearing will determine whether Frenchel Johnson, who had three children with Crutcher, was his common-law wife. If Glassco determines she was his wife, Johnson would be entitled to half of the estate, including proceeds from any civil lawsuit against the city over Crutcher’s death.

After a hearing last month, Frenchel Johnson told reporters she just wanted what was best for her and her children. ALLISON HERRARA/For The Frontier
After a hearing last month, Frenchel Johnson told reporters she just wanted what was best for her and her children. ALLISON HERRARA/For The Frontier

Smolen issued a subpoena to the city seeking recordings of 911 calls, dashcam video, police reports and other records of calls to an address in the 5500 block of North Hartford Avenue. Smolen said the records are important in his case to prove that Johnson was Crutcher’s common-law wife.

Johnson claims they lived together for 16 years, including six at the address on North Hartford. Attorneys for the Rev. Joey and Leanna Crutcher dispute that, saying Crutcher lived with his parents.

Oklahoma is one of 15 states in the country that recognizes common-law marriage, according to Unmarried Equality, a national group that advocates for legal rights of people outside traditional marriages.

Glassco’s order requires the city to turn over records of an Aug. 13 incident that ended in Johnson’s arrest at the home on North Hartford. Johnson was arrested after she became involved in a dispute with a neighbor’s sister-in-law.

There’s a history of discord between the neighbors, including protective orders filed against Johnson and Terence Crutcher.

The 911 call and interactions from when Tulsa police were at the home could show Crutcher and Johnson were husband and wife, Smolen said during the hearing Friday.

The Tulsa Police Department must release recordings of 911 calls and records related to Johnson’s arrest, as well as dashcam audio or video of Tulsa police at the home on Aug. 13, Glassco ordered. He also ordered the city to produce the same records of a police call immediately preceding that date. All records must be produced by 9 a.m. Tuesday, about an hour before the estate hearing.

Subpoenas issued to TPD also sought records related to Crutcher’s death and arrest record, as well as access to Crutcher’s wallet and cellphone. The wallet contains insurance cards for the children, showing he was an acting parent, and the cellphone may have texts that show he considered Johnson to be his wife, Smolen said.

District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler, who also attended Friday’s hearing, said he will deny any request for release of Terence Crutcher’s belongings until the court makes a decision on who will serve as the estate’s administrator.

Until that decision is made, Tulsa attorney Austin Bond has been assigned as interim special administrator. Bond said he hasn’t requested Terence Crutcher’s belongings, nor will he unless instructed by the court.

Another issue expected to be brought up at Tuesday’s hearing is whether the couple lived together.

Attorneys for the Rev. Joey Crutcher and Leanna Crutcher say Terence Crutcher didn’t live with Johnson and instead lived with his parents, noting he listed his parents’ home as his permanent address.

Damario Solomon-Simmons, civil attorney for the family of Terence Crutcher, speaks to the media after Betty Shelby's arraignment. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier
Damario Solomon-Simmons, civil attorney for the family of Terence Crutcher, speaks to the media after Betty Shelby’s arraignment. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier

At the hearing Friday, Tulsa attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons said only Johnson’s name appears on the lease for the house on North Hartford Avenue.

However, Terence Crutcher used his parents’ address since he got out of high school, and bank documents list the Hartford address, Smolen said. He was incarcerated at the time the home was leased and moved in after his release, he said.

Johnson still lives at the home and her landlord will testify Tuesday that Terence Crutcher lived with her, Smolen said.

Glassco cautioned that cohabitation is only one element in establishing a common-law marriage in Oklahoma. The couple must have an agreement that they are in a “mutual and exclusive” relationship and “must hold themselves out to the community as husband and wife,” he told the attorneys.

“All parts of the test must be proven by clear and convincing evidence,” Glassco said.

Near the end of Friday’s hearing, Glassco told attorneys both parties are still grieving, and he expects sensitivity during Tuesday’s hearing.

Whether Johnson is determined to be Terence Crutcher’s common-law spouse, she still is the mother of the children and the mother of his parents’ grandchildren, Glassco said.

“We deal with common law issues all the time, and no one comes to watch. … I do not want to harm these people any more than they’ve already been harmed,” he said.

One issue that may come up in discussions about the estate is the status of funds contributed to help Crutcher’s family following his death.

About $167,000 was contributed to a GoFundMe account and donors were instructed to send the money to the Florida law firm of Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Crutcher’s parents. Initially, payments were to be to the Terence Crutcher Estate but that soon changed to Tiffany Crutcher, Terence Crutcher’s twin sister.

Smolen has raised questions about oversight of those funds and who has control of them. Questions sent to Crump’s law firm about the account were not answered.

Simmons said in a Sept. 28 email: “It is our understanding that the funds raised through GoFundMe were done in full accordance with the law. It is our understanding that none of the funds raised have been spent.”

This family photo shows Frenchel Johnson, Terence Crutcher and their children. It appears on the page for a GoFundMe account that Johnson has not been allowed to access since her husband was shot and killed by Tulsa police. Courtesy
This family photo shows Frenchel Johnson, Terence Crutcher and their children. It appears on the page for a GoFundMe account that Johnson has not been allowed to access since her husband was shot and killed by Tulsa police. Courtesy

Terence Crutcher’s widow: ‘I just want what’s right for me and my kids’

Police promise to ‘achieve justice’ as investigation continues in death of Terence Crutcher

Your financial support for our investigative journalism is now tax deductible. Click here to become a Friend of The Frontier.

Kassie McClung

Staff writer

Kassie McClung joined The Frontier in May 2016. She reports on health, criminal justice and other state issues. Kassie holds a bachelors degree in multimedia journalism from Oklahoma State University. She likes dogs, maps and data. She can be reached at Kassie@readfrontier.com or 918-935-1044. Follow her on Twitter @KassieMcClung.
Donate