Prosecutor announces charges against officer in Tulsa shooting

Christian Hansen/The New York Times

Tiffany Crutcher, the twin sister of Terence Crutcher, with the Rev. Al Sharpton during a news conference Wednesday.

By Justin Juozapavicius Associated Press 

TULSA, Okla. — Prosecutors charged a white Oklahoma police officer with first-degree manslaughter Thursday, less than a week after she killed an unarmed black man on a city street and just days after police released graphic videos, saying in court documents the officer ‘‘reacted unreasonably.’’

Officer Betty Shelby fatally shot 40-year-old Terence Crutcher Sept. 16. The affidavit filed with the charge says she ‘‘reacted unreasonably by escalating the situation from a confrontation with Mr. Crutcher, who was not responding to verbal commands and was walking away from her with his hands held up, becoming emotionally involved to the point that she over reacted.’’


Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said arrangements were being made for Shelby’s surrender.

The swift action in Tulsa stood in contrast to Charlotte, N.C., where police refused under mounting pressure Thursday to release video of the shooting of a black man this week and the National Guard was called in to try to a head off a third night of violence. Protests in Tulsa since Crutcher’s death have been consistently peaceful.

Dashcam and aerial footage of the shooting and its aftermath showed Crutcher walking away from Shelby with his arms in the air. The footage does not offer a clear view of when Shelby fired the single shot that killed Crutcher. Her attorney has said Crutcher was not following police commands and that Shelby opened fire when the man began to reach into his SUV window.

Crutcher’s family discounted that claim, saying the father of four posed no threat. They also pointed to an enlarged photo from police footage that appears to show Crutcher’s window was rolled up. And police said Crutcher did not have a gun on him or in his vehicle.

The affidavit also indicates Shelby ‘‘cleared the driver’s side front’’ of Crutcher’s vehicle before she began interacting with Crutcher, suggesting she may have known there was no gun on the driver’s side of the vehicle.


The affidavit says Shelby told investigators ‘‘she was in fear for her life and thought Mr. Crutcher was going to kill her. When she began following Mr. Crutcher to the vehicle with her duty weapon drawn, she was yelling for him to stop and get on his knees repeatedly.’’

Crutcher was wearing ‘‘baggy clothes’’ but Shelby ‘‘was not able to see any weapons or bulges indicating a weapon was present.’’

If convicted, Shelby faces between four years and life in prison.

Crutcher’s twin sister, Tiffany Crutcher, said the family was pleased criminal charges were filed and urged a vigorous prosecution.

‘‘Our goal now is to ensure that this never happens to another innocent citizen,’’ Tiffany Crutcher said.