18, May 2017
A white policewoman in the US state of Oklahoma, who was accused of fatally shooting an unarmed African American man, has been acquitted from all charges. Officer Betty Jo Shelby, 43, shot dead 40-year-old Terrence Crutcher next to his car on a street in Tulsa on September 16, 2016.
The Tulsa County District Court jury of eight women and four men ruled Wednesday that the officer, who has been on unpaid leave since she was charged, was not guilty of manslaughter. During the proceedings, Shelby said that she acted according to her training because she had reasonable fear that the victim was reaching for a gun.
However, the Crutcher family’s lawyer, rejected her reasoning, saying that video from the killing shows Crutcher was “simply going to the car with his hands up, and making the turn and pivoting to put his hands on the car when the shot is fired.”
Prosecutors also argued against Shelby, noting that she shot Crutcher a few seconds before he made the gesture that the defense cited as the basis for her reaction. Shannon McMurray, Shelby’s lawyer, accused the prosecutors of hypocrisy and said they were attacking the officer in response to the media frenzy surrounding the case.
Crutcher’s father, Joseph, accepted the vote but said he knew the officer was guilty. “I have four grandchildren that are at home that has lost their daddy. I said I would accept whatever the verdict was, and I’m going to do that. But let it be known that I believe in my heart that Betty Shelby got away with murder,” he said.
The ruling makes Shelby the latest white officer to escape unharmed after killing an African American over the past few years. Similar rulings were issued by grand juries in the deaths of Eric Garner on Staten Island, Tamir Rice in Cleveland and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, all of them controversial cases that prompted a national debate about race relations and the use of force by law enforcement.