Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby fatally shot 40-year-old pastor Terence Crutcher Friday night when he experienced car trouble after leaving night classes at Tulsa Community College — and now, dash cam video of the shooting shows the man’s arms were in the air when Shelby took his life.
“His hands were in the air from all views,” pastor Rodney Goss of the Morning Star Baptist Church, who viewed footage from both dash cams and a police helicopter prior to the public release, told the Tulsa World. “It was not apparent from any angle at any point he lunged, came toward, aggressively attacked, or made any sudden movements that would have been considered a threat or life-threatening toward the officer.”
Police had thus far claimed Crutcher — whose SUV broke down in the middle of the road — approached the officers aggressively while refusing to obey commands to raise his arms, an action the helicopter pilot notes would perhaps be worthy of deploying the Taser.
“He’s got his hands up for her now,” the pilot says of Crutcher, adding a moment later the man appears uncooperative and may need to be tased.
Officer Tyler Turnbough then deployed his Taser against Crutcher, but Shelby fired before the electric jolt could even knock him to the ground. Video from one patrol car’s dash can and that as seen from a police helicopter circling above clearly shows Crutcher not acting aggressively as the cops surround and then murder him.
“It wasn’t a matter of minutes, it was a matter of moments,” Goss noted. “As quick as the officer released the Taser from his hand, Terence was falling to the ground having already been shot.”
Worse, he explained, the officers seemed not to treat their victim with any concern, and made no moves to provide first aid after the tasing and shooting.
“After having been shot, a couple minutes it appears, but it seemed like a lifetime, went by before anyone actually checked with him as far as pulse — as far as whatever the case may be,” Goss said.
Police on scene indeed appear infinitely more concerned with the panicked Shelby than they do with the man they just shot for no apparent reason, and footage bears out Goss’ statement it takes minutes for officers even to approach the dying man. As Crutcher lies mortally wounded on the ground, officers back away like frightened children, supporting Shelby by the arms. As the helicopter circles overhead, audio of the pilot shows he is quite startled by the inexplicable shooting.
Goss explained to the World that Crutcher moved slowly and deliberately throughout his brief interaction with the police.
But the cops’ predilection to employ force might have been a forgone conclusion, as he said, one officer is overheard in audio inexplicably describing Crutcher — the pastor and father of four, who was taking a night class in music appreciation — as “one bad dude.”
As Goss plainly summarized, “There was a perception problem before there was ever a shooting.”
Although authorities had refused to say whether or not a weapon was recovered at the scene, Crutcher’s twin sister, Tiffany insists her brother would not have been armed.
“One fact I do know is that my brother was unarmed,” she asserted in a news conference Saturday. “I’m just devastated.”
In a press conference prior to the release of the video he called “very disturbing” and “hard to watch,” Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan finally confirmed, “I’m going to tell you right now, right now, there was no gun on the suspect or in the suspect’s vehicle.”
Crutcher’s family, their attorneys, local pastors, and several activists were permitted to view the footage before police released it to the public.
“We wanted them to see it before it was released so they wouldn’t be blindsided by it,” Tulsa Police Sgt. Shane Tuell confirmed, according to ABC News. “We wanted to be able to have that intimate time with them, with their attorney, to see if they had any questions or concerns.
“With something of this magnitude, we’re trying an approach that we believe is necessary to further that transparency.”
Shelby, on the force since 2011, and Turnbough, an officer since 2009 — who were named by police on Sunday — encountered Crutcher’s stalled SUV as they were responding to another call. Both have been given the paid vacation, otherwise known as administrative leave, customarily ‘rewarded’ after the use of fatal force.
“We have to let justice take its course,” Goss said prior to the announcement the Department of Justice would conduct an investigation into the fatal shooting.
Activists gathered outside the Tulsa County Courthouse to protest the killing of Crutcher and the ballooning epidemic of police violence, while community leaders urged the public to remain calm upon release of footage.
“Protests are not a problem,” Chief Jordan told the press. “I grew up in the 60s and it’s a very valid way of people to protect their rights.”
Whether calm and justice will ultimately prevail hinges on whether or not Shelby receives proportionate punishment for taking the life of a wholly and utterly innocent pastor whose only crime — apparently a capital offense — was having car trouble at an inopportune moment.
This is what complying with police in America looks like.