The interaction between Terence Crutcher and Betty Shelby in the middle of a road in North Tulsa last September didn’t last long,
“It was just a couple of minutes,” said Kevin Gray, Tulsa County assistant district attorney, during opening statements Wednesday.
But the evidence the court will hear over the next couple of weeks will surround that moment.
Gray told jurors that over the course of the trial it would become clear that Shelby acted emotionally when she shot Crutcher, who was unarmed, and got special treatment following the shooting because she was a police officer.
Defense attorney Shannon McMurray said Shelby reacted according to her training and the only person who acted emotionally was the district attorney who charged her. District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler charged Shelby six days after the shooting and one day before Tulsa police were set to turn their full investigation over to him.
The jury, which is made up of nine women — two whom are black — and three men, heard from six witnesses and saw videos of Crutcher being shot and killed during testimony Wednesday afternoon. A black man and a Hispanic woman will serve as alternates.
The six witnesses were all Tulsa police officers who were on the scene with Shelby both during and after she fatally shot Crutcher.
Pilot testifies about ‘bad dude’ comment
The helicopter pilot who said Crutcher looked like “a bad dude” based that comment on how Crutcher was acting in the situation, not his appearance, the pilot testified.
Video recorded from a police helicopter shows Crutcher with his hands in the air, and Shelby, with her gun drawn, slowly walk toward Crutcher’s stalled SUV.
“That looks like a bad dude,” Officer Michael Richert said. “Could be on something.”
During testimony on Wednesday, Richert said at the time, he didn’t know whether Crutcher was on something. But what alerted him was Shelby initially telling officers over the radio that Crutcher was refusing to put his hands up.
From the helicopter, Richert couldn’t hear Crutcher and Shelby communicating. He said he thought Crutcher had gotten out of his car during a traffic stop and backed Shelby up to her patrol car.
“I have never seen someone walk away with their hands up with a gun pointed at them,” Richert said. He added that he didn’t know whether Crutcher had a gun.
In the wake of the shooting, community leaders were critical of Richert’s “bad dude” comment.
In an interview with The Frontier in September 2016, Rep. Regina Goodwin questioned what would possess Richert to say that.
“You’re bringing to this your preconceived notion of who we are, who black men are, and who black women are,” Goodwin said at the time.
Six Tulsa police officers gave similar testimony on what they saw on the scene both before and after Shelby fatally shot Crutcher.
Tulsa police officer Tyler Turnbough, who was the first officer to respond after Shelby, said all officers were put on alert when Shelby said over the radio that Crutcher wouldn’t put his hands up.
He arrived to see Crutcher walking away from Shelby with his arms raised and Shelby with her gun raised.
Turnbough said he drew his taser and Shelby acknowledged him when he told her what kind of weapon he had. He chose his Taser over a gun because he wanted to have the choice of a less-lethal weapon “in case (Crutcher) turned around and wanted to fight,” Turnbough testified.
If Shelby would have had a taser, he would have drew his gun so the officers could have a lethal option if necessary, Turnbough said.
Turnbough got nervous when Crutcher reached into the car’s window, he said. He and Shelby deployed their weapons almost simultaneously. Turnbough said he didn’t realize Shelby had shot Crutcher until blood began to soak his T-shirt.
Turnbough said he thought his taser was “extra loud.”
Crutcher never talked or yelled at the officers, nor did he try to engage them physically or appear to have a weapon, Turnbough said.
Crutcher didn’t get medical attention until about two minutes after he was shot, but Turnbough testified that officers had to clear the area and block traffic first.
Though Turnbough said officers waited to give Crutcher medical attention because they couldn’t see whether he had a weapon, two other officers on the scene testified they saw nothing in his hands.However, some said they feared he had a gun in his pockets or waistband.
Turnbough agreed when McMurray said Shelby didn’t fire her weapon at Crutcher for not obeying her orders, she shot him because he put his arm in the window.
‘I can’t believe he made me do it’
Officers testified although they asked Shelby how she was doing after the shooting, none of them asked her questions surrounding the shooting.
Tulsa police officer Sara Dunn, who arrived on the scene as Shelby was firing her weapon, said they aren’t allowed to ask in case they have to testify.
Asked whether Dunn knew she would be testifying, she said yes.
Richert testified he didn’t ask Shelby specifics about the incident, but when he saw her later that day she said, “I can’t believe he made me do it.”
Officer Dean Montgomery said he was there to support Shelby’s well-being after the shooting. While on the scene shortly after the shooting occurred, Montgomery, on the agency’s crisis response team, reminded her to take deep breaths and stand up straight, he testified.
The team responds to police shootings and other crisis situations that involve officers.
When Gray asked whether civilians had a critical response team, Montgomery said no.
Jurors hear attorneys’ opening statements
Shelby acted emotionally and fearfully when she shot Crutcher and after she did, she got special treatment because she’s a police officer, Gray said in his opening statement Wednesday.
Shelby saw a “tall, African American guy, big guy, heavyset,” Gray said.
Shelby asked for backup, and moments later a helicopter was flying overhead. Someone says Crutcher looks like a “bad dude.” And although a responding officer pulled out a taser, Shelby grabbed her gun.
After she fatally shot Crutcher, her fellow officers were there to support her, and Shelby wasn’t interviewed about the incident until a couple of days later, Gray said.
The only person who acted emotionally in the shooting of Crutcher was Kunzweiler, defense attorneys said in their opening statement.
Prosecutors will aim to show Shelby acted unreasonably when she shot Crutcher, but McMurray disagreed that’s what happened. Kunzweiler acted out of fear when he charged Shelby with first-degree manslaughter on Sept. 22, 2016, she said.
Kunzweiler filed the charges before the completion of a Tulsa Police Department into the shooting. He has maintained that TPD investigators were showing him pieces of their report as they were completing it, and that he had more than enough evidence in front of him to feel comfortable charging Shelby when he did.
Tulsa’s Fraternal Order of Police filed an ethics complaint against the district attorney last week, alleging the charges were brought “unfairly and unethically.”
Shelby, who McMurray said is a 10-year veteran who has 2,400 hours of law enforcement training, had never fired her weapon before she shot Crutcher.
Shelby came across Crutcher’s Lincoln Navigator while she was on her way to respond to a domestic disturbance, McMurray said. The car was parked in the middle of the road, almost in the wrong lane.
Three other people who are expected to testify came into contact with Crutcher before Shelby arrived, McMurray said.
One woman called 911 and told a dispatcher Crutcher was acted strangely, and she thought “something dangerous” was going to happen, McMurray said.
Shelby told Crutcher to put his hands in the air, but he continued to reach inside his pockets, a sign he was carrying a gun, McMurray said.
“(Shelby) knows he has a firearm,” she said. “What else would he be doing?”
When Crutcher continued to walk toward the driver’s side of his car, Shelby yelled at him to stop.
“He does not stop,” McMurray said.
Shelby fired when Crutcher reached into the vehicle’s window, McMurray said. Shelby gave Crutcher “every opportunity” to comply with her orders, she said.
When someone refuses to follow an officer’s commands over and over, McMurray said, “that’s the chance you take.”
Before opening statements began, attorneys for the state and defense finalized the jury panel and established who would serve as the two alternates.
The jury is made up of nine women and three men. There’s two black women on the panel.
A black man, along with a Hispanic woman, will serve alternate jurors in the trial.
Questions about race have surrounded the jury selection process. On Tuesday, McMurray asked a potential juror whether she believed race “had anything to do with the shooting.”
A questionnaire given to the prospective jurors on Monday asked whether jurors believed law enforcement officers treat black people differently from white people.