The cop who killed Terence Crutcher is charged with manslaughter

Officer Betty Shelby has been charged with first-degree manslaughter for an incident that sparked nationwide outrage when video of it was made public.
September 22, 2016, 9:30pm
Image via Tulsa Police/EPA

Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby has been charged with first-degree manslaughter for the shooting death of Terence Crutcher, prosecutors announced on Thursday.

Shelby shot and killed the 40-year-old Crutcher on September 16 in an incident that sparked nationwide outrage when video of it was made public on Monday.

The footage, filmed from a dashcam in a police cruise and a camera mounted on police helicopter, shows Crutcher walking away from his disabled vehicle on the highway with his hands raised in the air as police arrive on the scene. Shelby can be seen walking closely behind Crutcher with her gun drawn. As Crutcher nears his vehicle with his hands still up, he is surrounded by officers, stunned with a Taser, and then fatally shot.

Crutcher was unarmed. A witness who called 911 to report Crutcher's disabled vehicle said he was acting strangely, and that he might be "smoking something." Police said they found a small baggie of angel dust in Crutcher's vehicle, but the drugs weren't discovered until after the fatal shooting.

Related: Why we've seen video of Tulsa's police shooting but not Charlotte's

Tulsa County DA Steve Kunzweiller said a warrant had been issued for Shelby's arrest, and she was planning to surrender to authorities, according to local TV news broadcaster Fox23. Shelby was placed on administrative leave by the Tulsa Police Department after the shooting. If convicted, she faces a minimum of four years in prison.

Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby. (Photo via Tulsa Police/EPA)

Audio from the helicopter recording captured one of the officers saying Crutcher looked like a "bad dude," a characterization that his family later disputed. While Crutcher had a criminal record, family members said he was getting his life back on track, regularly attending church, and enrolling in community college classes.

It's relatively rare for a police officer to be charged in connection with an on-duty shooting. A study from Bowling Green University found that only 125 police officers were charged with murder or manslaughter between 2005 and 2011. Of those officers, 70 percent were ultimately convicted.

In April, a former volunteer deputy with the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office was found guilty of second-degree manslaughter for shooting an unarmed suspect in 2015. The deputy, 74-year-old Robert Bates, said he intended to use his Taser instead of his gun when he shot Eric Courtney Harris.

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