Unanimous Decision; Betty Shelby Not Guilty of Murdering Unarmed Terence Crutcher

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Betty Shelby - Image via Tulsa World

Oklahoma Police Officer Betty Shelby, the woman responsible for killing Terence Crutcher, an unarmed Black man, was acquitted of first-degree manslaughter charges.  The jury deliberated for nine hours.

WHEN YOU KNOW YOU JUST GOT AWAY WITH MURDER. #BETTYSHELBY

     — KEITH BLAZER (@OCHODATHEAUX) MAY 18, 2017

On Sept. 16, 2016, Crutcher’s SUV stalled in the middle of a Tulsa city street. Shelby (43) was the first officer to respond to the scene. According to Shelby, upon arriving at the scene, in the two minutes before cameras began recording the encounter, Shelby ordered Crutcher to “stop walking away from her” and “get on the ground.”

As to why she was ordering a man who’s SUV was simply stalled in the middle of the road to “get on the ground” in the first place is beyond me. I guess that is just standard protocol in Oklahoma.

During the trial, Shelby took the witness stand in her own defense, testifying that she feared for her life when she shot Crutcher and that he made aggressive moves toward her. However, on the video released by law enforcement, Crutcher can be seen walking slowly away from Shelby with his hands in the air.

In her exclusive interview with “60 Minutes” last month, Shelby said she felt like any other police officer in her position would have done the same thing. Shelby also said she feels sorrow but believes Crutcher’s death was his own fault.

“I have sorrow that this happened that this man lost his life but he caused the situation to occur,” Shelby said. “So in the end, he caused his own. ”

Crutcher’s family was visibly heartbroken and outraged by the jury’s not guilty verdict.

“Let it be known that I believe in my heart that Betty Shelby got away with murder,” Crutcher’s father, Rev. Joey Crutcher said after the verdict was announced.

“My brother’s dead because she didn’t pause. And because she didn’t pause, my family, we’ve had to pause,” Tiffany Crutcher said. “We’ve had to stop. We’ve had to lay down every single night with tears in our eyes.”

After the jury made their decision Wednesday evening, demonstrators began to gather outside the courtroom in peaceful protest. In an interview with CBS News Marq Lewis, organizer of the local civil rights group We The People Oklahoma said the verdict was a blow to Tulsa’s black community.

“When is it going to stop – just officer-related shootings? When will the police change policy,” he said.

Lewis is right. When will it stop? Police departments in this country need to take massive steps to improve the way they train officers to handle situations they might feel uncomfortable in.

First-degree manslaughter is a felony and Betty Shelby faced a minimum sentence of four years in prison and a maximum of life if she had been found guilty. Shelby was charged September 22 and has been free on $50,000 bail since and also receiving paid administrative leave.

The jury consisted of eight women and four men, including two Black women and one Black man.  The judge ordered them to remain in the Tulsa County Courthouse until they reach a verdict unanimously or they are unable to, in which a hung jury or mistrial would be declared. After approximately six hours of deliberations, the jury sent a note to the judge asking about the process of delivering the verdict and if they would be allowed to explain themselves at that time. The judge responded that the verdict would be read in open court, but the jury could not give an explanation during the reading. However, he told them they can speak to the public after the verdict is delivered on their own volition.

A man seeking assistance with a stalled SUV should never escalate into a violent situation.  However, even had the situation escalated, there have been many instances when police officers were able to handle violent situations without using lethal force.  Betty Shelby made a choice to ratchet up what should have been a peaceful stop to assist a member of the community.  Yet, she has apparently gotten away with it in court.  When justice is not served, it causes citizens to lose faith in the system – and the officers paid to protect and serve.

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