Tulsa police release video of officer shooting unarmed man whose car had broken down

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TULSA, Okla. - From different angles, the videos show the same scene.

An unarmed black man walks on a Tulsa, Oklahoma, road with his hands in the air. Police officers follow closely behind him as he approaches his vehicle. He stands beside the car, then falls to the ground after one officer pulls the trigger.

Now 40-year-old Terence Crutcher is dead. Crutcher's sister is demanding that prosecutors charge the officer who shot him. And the police videos of the incident are fueling criticism about the case.

Federal, state and local authorities are investigating the Friday night shooting.

Crutcher's family says he was waiting for help on the road after his SUV broke down.

The officer's attorney says she was afraid Crutcher was reaching for a weapon when she opened fire. Attorney Benjamin Crump, part of the legal team representing Crutcher's family, countered at a Tuesday news conference that Crutcher's window was rolled up, making it unlikely he was reaching into the car.

911 call reported man running from vehicle

Two 911 calls brought officers to the scene about 7:30 p.m. Friday.

The first came from a woman who said an abandoned vehicle was blocking the street and a man was running away, warning that it was going to blow up.

"Somebody left their vehicle running in the middle of the street with their doors wide open," the caller said. "The doors are open, the vehicle is still running. It's an SUV. It's in the middle of the street, it's blocking traffic."

Officer Betty Shelby was the first to arrive, but she wasn't responding to the 911 call, said her attorney, Scott Wood. Shelby was en route to a domestic violence call when she encountered Crutcher, who she thought might be impaired, and then the SUV in the middle of the road, Wood said.

She asked Crutcher whether the car belonged to him but got no response, the attorney said. Crutcher began walking toward her with his hands in his pockets. She politely asked Crutcher to take his hands out of his pocket while they were speaking, Wood said.

"He does comply and puts his hands out of his pocket, and then puts his hands up in the air, which she thought was a little bit strange under the circumstances," he said.

Crutcher continued to ignore Shelby's questions about the vehicle and at one point walks toward the back of the police cruiser and puts his hands back in his pockets, the attorney said. Shelby called dispatch and was intent on arresting him because she thought he was under the influence of something, he said.

She drew her gun and ordered Crutcher to get on his knees, which he refused to do, Wood said. He instead walked toward his car.

'Very disturbing' video

Videos police released Monday show some of what happened next. The footage is "very disturbing and difficult to watch," Tulsa police Chief Chuck Jordan told reporters.

The videos show Shelby and several other officers at the scene.

Tulsa police officers also were flying above the scene in a helicopter, capturing the incident from an on-board camera. Footage from multiple police cameras show Crutcher walking toward his SUV in the middle of the road, hands raised, followed closely by Shelby and three other officers. They approach Crutcher, who continued to walk back to his car, where he appeared to move his hands toward the vehicle.

Circling above the scene, one police officer in the helicopter can be heard referring to Crutcher as a "bad dude."

Jeanne MacKenzie, Tulsa police spokeswoman, said that the responding officers on the ground thought Crutcher had reached into the driver's side window of the vehicle.

Moments later, as Crutcher stands beside his vehicle, the video shows him fall to the ground

"I think he may have just been Tasered," an officer says over the radio.

"Shots fired!" a female officer says.

In the video, Crutcher lies in the middle of the street, motionless with blood on his shirt, soon to be dead.

Sister slams officer's 'negligence and incompetency'

At a news conference Monday, Tiffany Crutcher said she believes her twin brother Terence died because of a Tulsa police officer's "negligence and incompetency and insensitivity."

Just a month ago, she said, the twins had celebrated their 40th birthday. Terence, a God-loving father of four who sang at church every week, had enrolled at a community college in Tulsa, where he hoped to earn a degree, she said.

"I'm going to show you," Terence recently texted his sister. "I'm going to make you all proud."

Now, she said, charges should be pressed to ensure justice is served. According to his sister, that's the least that should happen given Crutcher won't be able to make his family proud like he had hoped.

"And because he was a big bad dude," she said referring back to the police helicopter tape, "he'll never get that chance."

Officer's attorney: There's more to the story

Wood says there's more to the story than the videos show.

"He had a very hollow look in his face, kind of a thousand-yard stare, so to speak, and would not communicate. And she could tell he was not normal. She thought that when she saw him," he said.

And when the officer opened fire, according to her attorney, she thought Crutcher was retrieving a weapon from his car.

"She was yelling at him to stop, for probably at least 10 to 15 seconds. He gets to the window of the SUV, and has his hands in the air, looks at them ... and his left hand goes into the window," at which point one officer deployed his Taser and Shelby fired her service weapon. Shelby had a Taser but did not take it out, the attorney said.

Wood told CNN in a follow-up interview that his client had her gun out because she was the only officer there for a few minutes and she thought Crutcher was armed. The second officer had a Taser because the "proper tactic ... in that scenario is for second person ... to have less lethal (weapon)," said Wood, a former police officer.

The incident has nothing to do with race, Wood said, noting that his client suspected Crutcher was under the influence.

"People who are under the influence have unpredictable behavior, whether you are white, Hispanic, or black," he said.

Attorney: Terrorist arrested alive, but not Crutcher?

Attorney Benjamin Crump, along with three other attorneys representing the Crutchers, held a news conference Tuesday at which they insisted the matter could have been resolved with less-than-deadly force.

"Why is an unarmed black man who has committed no crime, who only needed a helping hand, given bullets in his lung?" the lawyer asked.

Standing alongside an easel holding an enhanced screen grab of the police video, Crump said he was giving the Tulsa County district attorney and Tulsa police every opportunity to be transparent. He also urged them not to vilify Crutcher.

"How could he be reaching into the car if the window is up and there's blood on the glass?" Crump asked, pointing to the photo on the easel. "The window is up. There's a streak of blood on the window. It's coming down the car door."

Attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons contested Shelby's attorney's account, saying Crutcher was complying and made no sudden movements until he was hit with the Taser.

As for the allegations that Crutcher may have been intoxicated, Crump said it's irrelevant. He pointed out that just Monday an alleged terrorist accused of placing bombs in New York and New Jersey and opening fire on police was taken into custody alive, yet Shelby felt she had to exact deadly force on Crutcher.

"If we started to condemn everybody to death who might have some drugs in their system, all our neighborhoods would be affected," he said.

Tulsa police said Tuesday night that they found the drug PCP in Crutcher's car.

David Riggs, another attorney for the Crutcher family, said earlier that if drugs were somehow involved "this is a textbook case of how not to handle someone in that situation."

'There was no gun'

At a news conference Monday, the police chief told reporters that Crutcher was unarmed.

"I'm going to tell you right here now: There was no gun on the suspect or in the suspect's vehicle," he said.

He also confirmed that Shelby had fired one shot and Officer Tyler Turnbough had deployed his Taser.

Shelby is now on paid administrative leave, pending the outcome of a criminal investigation. The officer joined the police force in 2011 and had worked for the county sheriff's department for four years before that, according to her attorney, who described her record as a clean one.

Shelby was interviewed by homicide detectives for 90 minutes on Monday morning, Wood said.

In addition, both the US Department of Justice and state authorities have launched investigations into the officer-involved shooting.

Danny Williams, US Attorney of the Northern District of Oklahoma, said prosecutors will attempt to determine whether a federal civil rights violation had occurred. Authorities refused to immediately answer additional questions due to the ongoing investigation.

Jack Henderson, a Tulsa council member, said that authorities would get to the bottom of what happened Friday night. In the meantime, Henderson called for Tulsa "to remain a strong city, a together city" free of the violence and conflict seen in other cities across the US.

"We've already got two families' lives who will be affected forever," Henderson said. "We don't need some more lives to be changed this way."

'Devastated'

Outside the Tulsa County Courthouse, approximately two-dozen protesters held signs and photos of Crutcher, shouting chants such as "hands up, don't shoot!" As they walked around downtown Tulsa, they demanded further transparency as well as improved training for local police.

Pastor Mario Johnson, who said he watched the dashcam video before it was made public, believes Crutcher did not deserve to die.

"Him having his hands up, walking toward his car, he was walking away from the officers. He wasn't posing a threat in any way," Johnson said.

According to a Crutcher family attorney, Terence was just "having some difficulty with his vehicle and that's it."

Meanwhile, Shelby's attorney insists his client had no racial motivation in shooting Crutcher. She had no idea the race of the SUV's owner at first when she stopped to inspect it, he said.

"She didn't see anyone, she didn't stop because that car belonged to a black person or a Hispanic person. She stopped just to help. And within a few minutes, she had to use deadly force," he said.

11 comments

  • David

    I’m not going to try and justify what this officer did. I wasn’t there and you can’t see that much from the video. But I’m sure he would still be alive if he would have complied with the officer. Unfortunately I believe things like this will continue as more and more people disregard the orders of police officers.

  • Opinion8d

    @Mike – to begin with, police are not trained to ‘shoot in the leg’ -center mass to stop the threat. This isn’t a matter of ‘did he deserve the death penalty for not listening’ either. Put yourself in the cop’s shoes…..you’re called out to a ‘crazed’ guy who left his SUV running in the middle of the road. You don’t know who the guy is (haven’t identified him yet) and you don’t know what’s in his head. Is he high, did he just kill someone, is he mentally ill, or was there a bee in his car -you don’t know. Then, instead of cooperating with the police, which would have resolved the situation, he decides not to comply with the cop’s orders. They also didn’t have a chance to search him/pat him down, to know if he had a weapon or not. If the guy makes a movement like he is going for a weapon, I side with the cops. It’s a split second decision. Again, doesn’t matter that he had his hands up at one point, he can pull a weapon in a second. I don’t know the details of what happened, what was said, or what the officer thinks she saw. I do know that if the guy had cooperated, this wouldn’t have happened. Is it possible the cop thought she was holding a taser instead of her gun?? Maybe…. As far as rendering aid…..that’s what EMT’s are for. I think people think cops are some type of super humans that should be all knowing, and all capable of everything, and any mistake, should cost them their career and possibly their freedom.

  • Opinion8d

    Yes, there are bad cop and there are also cops that make mistakes. Before I go and riot and flip out, I wait for the facts to come out and will give the cops the benefit of the doubt. Like I said, maybe in this case she meant to taser the guy but instead shot….we don’t know yet. The family is already calling for her to be charged without any facts yet. I have no sympathy for people who disrespect law enforcement and fail to comply -this is becoming a societal issue but largely a black cultural thing. Look at the recent police shootings and the actions of the victims……were they cooperating??? When is the last time a cop was going to arrest someone but gave up after the guy kept resisting??? Most cops never have to fire their gun and given all the interactions with the public, the number of shootings is extremely small. The problem is the media and the false narrative that they spew -like cops are hunting black people. We don’t have a policing problem in America, we have a problem with people behaving in a civilized society.

    • Opinion8d

      More details again…..funny how that Crump guy lawyer got involved right away…(Travon’s family attorney, Tamir Rice, insert racial incident here attorney) Can anyone explain to me why the ‘broken down car’ is still running and in the other lane??? And why the ‘broken down’ car was the subject of a 911 call saying the guy ran from the car saying it was going to blow? And yet, the ‘family’ and lawyer want to play the ‘broken down car’ narrative and police hunting black people scenario…..really?!?!? News to black people, try your case in court and simply listen/comply to the police on the street!!!

  • EYESWIDEOPEN

    So you are basically saying most black people are uncivilized. Wow! That’s your opinion, but truly ignorant and sad. I do agree that the media dose contribute to a lot to the issues by painting a bad picture of black people.Just watch your average 5 o’clock news. What do you see for the first ten minutes or so. Black people broadcast in negative situations. Weather it’s a murder or a black witness getting interview using broken English and looking unpresentable if you will…. Then, “next after commercial break”, white kids raising $ for charity at a church bake sale lol. It’s brain washing dude. It all comes down to being professional and controlling your adrenaline while serving the “community” as a police officer. Shooting a person should ALWAYS be the last line of defense, not the first or second option. And for the people out there that think black people are being oversensitive on the subject or not being realistic, google up my great uncle DANIEL BELL SHOOTING in Milwaukee (didn’t want to get personal but i had to go there). This has been going on for a long time. This was about 50 years ago before camera phones and video!

  • Lady B

    OpinionD8, you are as ignorant as they come! How about those who need to protect and serve STOP shooting innocent Americans. To the person making the comments on the shooting from the aircraft, what makes a person look “bad”… is it what the person is wearing, the car they drive…. or is it just the color of one’s skin?

    • grunt

      If the cop killing of innocent people is so common, why aren’t people completely cooperative and compliant with the police? After all, their life could depend on it.

  • bugs

    Why didn’t the driver stop walking when the police told him to stop? If I’m being told by a police officer holding a gun to stop you damn well better believe I will stop.

  • Jeff Bennett

    It would appear to me that after all these police shootings have occurred there is one undeniable and blatant truth; the police officers have been trained on how to handle all types of situations but the public has no formal training on how to respond with the police. Perhaps the police departments around the country typically rely on common sense in people to help resolve conflicts. Clearly common sense is not present at these shootings, on either side of the gun. I think that police interaction training should be mandatory for all citizens and non-citizens in the United States. That way, in case someone has a run-in or interaction with the police, we all know how to act, what to expect, and should know that if you disobey the nice officer, you might get yourself killed.

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