At least 11 current or former Tulsa police officers, including the president of the Fraternal Order of Police and an officer endorsed by the state as a witness in Betty Shelby’s criminal case, have donated to an online fundraiser for the beleaguered officer.
Shelby, 42, was charged Thursday with first-degree manslaughter in the Sept. 16 shooting death of Terence Crutcher. Crutcher, 40, was shot once in the chest following an encounter with Shelby and other officers on a stretch of road near 36th Street North and Lewis Avenue.
Police have said Crutcher disobeyed Shelby’s orders to keep his hands out of his pocket, though the only video captured from the scene was recorded after that part of the interaction. Available footage, recorded from dashboard cameras and a helicopter that flew above the scene, shows Crutcher slowly walking back to his vehicle with his hands up.
When Crutcher reached the driver’s side door, he lowered his hands and was shot by Shelby and Tased by another officer.
Shelby was placed on paid administrative leave following the shooting, but was transferred to unpaid leave after being charged.
Scott Wood, Shelby’s attorney, told The Frontier on Friday that his client had received “an outpouring of support” from law enforcement officers across the nation. The fundraiser for her, held on a website called Fundly, had 56 donors and had raised $3,706 of its $250,000 goal by Friday evening.
Tulsa police FOP President Patrick Stephens, who created the fundraiser, donated $100 and left a message on the site, saying: “This fund is to assist the Shelby family with their upcoming expenses. Betty is presumed innocent and needs your support. I Stand With Betty.”
Stephens also left a comment on the fundraiser that he claims comes from Shelby’s husband, Dave Shelby. Dave Shelby was in the helicopter that recorded the Crutcher shooting, though police have said he did not make the controversial statement that Crutcher, who had his hands in the air, “looked like a bad dude.”
“Betty and I are standing strong because of our faith, and the wonderful friends and supporters we are blessed with,” Dave Shelby reportedly said through Stephens on the fundraiser site. “Thank you all.”
Thom Bell, a Tulsa police officer, donated $1,000 to the fundraiser and left a message for Shelby, saying “Hang in there Betty and Dave. None of us ever walks alone.”
Det. Margaret Loveall donated $100, according to the fundraiser. Loveall at times works with TPD’s homicide unit, which investigated the Crutcher shooting prior to Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler. Loveall has appeared on the television show “The First 48,” which profiles the Tulsa Police Department’s Homicide Unit.
Loveall does not appear on the state’s witness list, though. The list, filed Thursday by Kunzweiler, identifies people who may be called to testify in future hearings and/or a potential trial for Shelby.
However one officer, Dean Montgomery, who donated $35 to the fundraiser, does appear on the witness list.
Kunzweiler told The Frontier in a text message late Friday that the donation “could be a relevant concern depending on how that officer testifies.”
“As a multi-year veteran of local law enforcement, I would expect Officer Shelby to have many fellow officers as friends,” he said “It is important to remember that the law presumes her to be innocent until a judge or jury determines otherwise.
“In many cases I have prosecuted, friends of an accused have expressed their support and in fact have testified as character witnesses. A contribution to assist a fellow officer who is accused of a crime could be a relevant concern depending upon how that officer testifies in the case. At this point, it would be mere speculation to delve into the hows or whys of any person’s actions or decisions. The prosecution of this case will be based upon the facts as reported to my office and will be litigated in a courtroom – as it should be.”
Stephens said he started the fund this afternoon as a friend of Betty Shelby.
“It’s not an FOP thing,” he said. “People were reaching out to me — even people outside the department — were reaching out for a place to donate to Officer Shelby and the Shelby family in their time of need, so I gave them that vehicle.”
Stephens said there are no policies that prohibit Tulsa police officers from contributing to the fund.
“They are not using duty time, they’re not using city funds,” Stephens said.
The money is being raised to help Shelby pay her legal bills and other expenses, Stephens said.
“She is leave without pay right now, she has no income and she still has children to feed,” he said. “She’s still a person, she’s still presumed innocent right now and (entitled) to due process, so I don’t see why anyone would have a problem supporting someone now.”
Stephens urged the public not to rush to judgment.
“Everybody needs to wait till all of the facts come out,” he said. “This shouldn’t be something that is tried in the court of public opinion, and that’s not what this Fundly site is about. It’s about supporting one of our own.”
Stephens said he met Shelby 12 years ago when her husband was one of his field training officers when he joined the force.
The fundraiser also includes a $100 donation under the name Amiri King, a conservative social media personality who shared a link to the fundraiser on his Facebook page. King has previously criticized Crutcher and often is critical of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The fundraiser page allows for people to identify themselves as “supporters” without donating any money. Among the supporters is a profile under the name Eric Roberts, the former Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper who was fired by the department after he was charged in Creek County with two alleged on-duty rapes.
Roberts’ cases have not yet gone to trial.
Meanwhile, a GoFundMe fundraiser for the Crutcher family has raised nearly $160,000 in two days.