Mimesis Law
6 August 2020

Terence Crutcher: Another Black Man Down In Tulsa

September 20, 2016 (Fault Lines) – Terence Crutcher, a 40-year-old black man, was shot and killed by Tulsa, Oklahoma police officer Betty Shelby right after he was tasered by officer Tyler Turnbough. Both Shelby and Turnbough are white. The shooting was caught by at least two separate videos, one, a squad car dashcam, and the other filmed from a police helicopter. None of the officers were wearing body cameras. Prior to being shot, Crutcher had his hands up, but the video shows that they were lowered prior to Turnbough tazing him.

If you look at the video, Crutcher is walking away from the squad car and back towards his vehicle. Shelby has her pistol drawn and is following him. At about 1:04 in the video you see Turnbough running up as he draws his Taser with his left hand. At about 1:10, you see Crutcher’s hand drop towards either his waist or towards the door latch as two more Tulsa officers come running up. Soon, all four officers are between the camera and Crutcher, to the point that you cannot see Crutcher.

Crutcher is tazed at about 1:22 or so, and at 1:29 you hear Shelby call out on the radio “shots fired.” You do not hear any audio from a body mike during the entire video. That is not abnormal, when you are rushing to help another officer, turning on your body microphone is not real high on an officer’s priority list. Since we don’t have audio, we don’t know exactly when the Taser is fired, nor how long of a delay before Shelby fired her pistol.

The police helicopter[1] video also shows Crutcher’s right hand being lowered (at about 0:23), but then the helicopter moves so that Crutcher’s vehicle is blocking the view of the camera. You do see Crutcher go down, but you can’t tell what happened. You are going to have all sorts of ‘experts’ offer opinions at this point, and they will all have one thing in common. None of them will be worth a cup of warm spit.

At the onset, it doesn’t look good for the officer. At least one British newspaper stated that Crutcher was a pastor, a man of the cloth. Crutcher was coming home from a music appreciation class at Tulsa Community College, hardly what you would expect of a “thug” or someone who was living on the shady side. No weapon was found on Crutcher or in his vehicle.

That’s not going to stop the pro-police narrative—it has already been pointed out by one news outlet that a man with the same name and date of birth had been arrested in 1996 on a weapons charge and for resisting arrest. He successfully completed a suspended sentence on the charges and has not been in trouble since.

Guys, that was 20 years ago. Since then, he has fathered four children, been active in the church, and was taking college classes. Isn’t that what we want people to do?

The Tulsa police have stated that both local and federal officials are looking to determine if criminal charges should be filed against the officers. Local civil rights activists are asking that the people remain calm, and to remember that the system worked with Tulsa County reserve deputy sheriff Robert Bates, who shot and killed Eric Harris. Bates, who is white, was convicted of manslaughter in the death of Harris, who was black.

Crutcher’s family is demanding that criminal charges be filed against the officers.

So far, I can’t see any justification for the shooting, but I’m not willing to condemn Shelby at this point, merely because I could not see through the four officers to see what Crutcher was doing. I will note that many of the officer comments at PoliceOne are about Crutcher’s failure to comply with police commands, as if somehow not complying with the police merits a death sentence. One comment summed that attitude up:

Once again if he would have complied this would not have happened.

Or perhaps we could look at other options, besides shooting people who don’t comply. At least one comment presented a different option as for the reason that Shelby fired.

News report say he was Tazed, and then immediately shot. Sympathetic reflex shooting?

I can see that as a possibility. Sympathetic shooting is a well-known phenomenon in the police firearms training world. It’s sometimes known as startle reflex, and it’s one of the main reasons that you’ll hear firearms instructors[2] repeatedly telling their officers to “keep your finger off of the trigger” until you consciously intend to fire a shot. Did that happen here? I don’t have a clue. Nor, for that matter, does anyone else.

It’s going to take some time to find out what happened, for the investigation to produce sufficient information to make a decision. It may be, as Crutcher’s twin sister wants, a criminal prosecution of Shelby. It may be a justifiable shooting, where the officers saw (or thought they saw) something that would justify deadly force. I don’t know, and neither do you, and neither do any of the experts. At least not yet, at this stage of the investigation.

Here, with the Bates case as precedent, I’m willing to wait and see what happens.

[1] Not that it affects the facts, but Shelby’s husband was in the police helicopter at the time of the shooting.

[2] Disclosure: I was a police firearms instructor who was anal retentive and generally an ass about keeping the finger off of the trigger.

15 Comments on this post.

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  • Terence Crutcher’s Deadly Breakdown | Simple Justice
    20 September 2016 at 9:20 am - Reply

    […] will be intense parsing of the video of Crutcher’s killing. At Fault Lines, former police officer and firearms instructor Greg Prickett takes apart the video and tries to […]

  • Brad
    20 September 2016 at 10:37 am - Reply

    There is more than probable cause here for the triggerwoman, Officer Taser, anyone who lied on a report and maybe even for everyone who failed to applied pressure to the bleeding wound.

    Those for whom there was probable cause to arrest should have been arrested at the scene for at least a couple of reasons:

    1. To deny them an opportunity to “get their stories straight.”

    2. To give them an opportunity to confess their crimes to cellmates.

    There is a double standard at work in making no arrests at the scene here and it stinks to high heaven of corruption so casual that policemen and ex-policemen are in total denial about it.

    • Greg Prickett
      20 September 2016 at 12:45 pm - Reply

      I’ve called for the immediate arrest when I believed it was appropriate. I don’t believe that this is one of those cases, at least not based on what I’ve seen thus far.

      • Brad
        20 September 2016 at 12:57 pm - Reply

        Are you saying that you don’t believe there is “probable cause”? If not, why not?

        • Greg Prickett
          20 September 2016 at 1:24 pm - Reply

          I don’t believe I said that there wasn’t probable cause. But having probable cause of an offense does not make it mandatory that an arrest be made or charges filed.

          • Brad
            20 September 2016 at 6:51 pm -

            Thanks for the answer (the question was not a “gotcha” — just wanted clarification).

            +1 on DaveL’s comment — now that is some productive snark!

  • DaveL
    20 September 2016 at 2:08 pm - Reply

    After all, it’s not like she poached your french fries, right?

  • Keith
    20 September 2016 at 3:34 pm - Reply

    Conjecture at this point, but if the taser caused his arms to come down – that violent movement of his arms could have been what she saw before deciding to shoot.

  • Ken
    20 September 2016 at 5:42 pm - Reply

    “[1] Not that it affects the facts, but Shelby’s husband was in the police helicopter at the time of the shooting.”
    Husband in the helicopter wouldn’t have anything to do with the position of the helicopter so it’s video was blocked along with the patrol dash cam? Rather nice to have such interference under the circumstances.

    Dave is certainly correct about the two tiered system. Let the officers collaborate and view any video before questioning. Be certain that all questions that could lead to a criminal charge are asked in the admin hearing thereby giving criminal immunity to the cop. NOBODY outside the Blue Gang gets those privileges.

    It is true that an arrest is not required with probable cause. Try telling that to a Blue Gang member who needs the arrest for his activity report.

    • DaveL
      20 September 2016 at 6:05 pm - Reply

      Husband in the helicopter wouldn’t have anything to do with the position of the helicopter so it’s video was blocked along with the patrol dash cam?

      Why would her husband want to do that? How could he have possibly known his wife was about to shoot, and that there would not be a weapon or other visible justification that she would have wanted to have on film?

    • Greg Prickett
      20 September 2016 at 6:46 pm - Reply

      What DaveL said.

      This is conspiracy theory thinking. Most officers count on video to exonerate them, they don’t want it obstructed.

  • Ken
    20 September 2016 at 6:24 pm - Reply

    A cop does not really have to prove by video that there was a gun. Simple fear is all it takes to skate. 9,999 out of 1,000 or better odds.

    Have you not noticed that any altercation, cops body shield the action from any known cameras? The same thing happened here, blocking the dash cam. It is much easier to lie about what happened and protect another officer from accountability if there is no video.

  • Leonard
    20 September 2016 at 9:03 pm - Reply

    It’s situations like these that I’m tired of seeing repeated time and time again. Scared cop syndrome. It’s time to pull a page from the Brits playbook and take firearms away from the regular patrol officer. Time and again police has demonstrated the inability to discern perceived threats from actual ones and all of the public is placed at risk. I want to trust our police…I can’t though their own actions.

  • Ken
    20 September 2016 at 9:49 pm - Reply

    “This is conspiracy theory thinking. Most officers count on video to exonerate them, they don’t want it obstructed.”
    Is this why NYC cop shop union is fighting even a trial of body worn cameras?
    Is this why so many citizens are being arrested for nothing more than recording video?
    Is this why persons recording video are moved further away from any police action than other bystanders?
    Is this why Cop Shops all over the US refuse to release copies of their own video? Because of course that video justifies the police officer’s actions?

  • Ken
    23 September 2016 at 2:53 pm - Reply

    I felt that Chris’ reliance on the historical outcome for Bates was misplaced. Maybe not, as Shelby has now been charged with felony manslaughter. [Washington Post]
    Charged is still a long road to a conviction. But it is a necessary first step.
    [from a friend:]”Video of the murder was posted earlier (of course, since she is a cop, it is “only” manslaughter) of Crutcher, but you might not have heard yet that the cop is being prosecuted.

    Ever notice how a cop is rarely charged with anything until *after* a video is shown on the Internet? The Internet is the best thing since sliced pineapple to help reduced America’s epidemic of police violence against citizens.” What cop has ever been charged with murder without video? After 23 years Los Angeles Detective Stephanie Lazarus for one. But about as rare as hen’s teeth.