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