Tulsa police release footage of officer killing unarmed black man with car trouble

The videos seem to contradict the department’s initial explanation.

CREDIT: Tulsa Police Department
CREDIT: Tulsa Police Department

Dash cam videos released Monday show Tulsa Police Department officers killing an unarmed 40-year-old black man who had his hands raised.

Terence Crutcher was shot and killed by police shortly before 8:00 pm on Friday night. He was unarmed and apparently seeking police assistance because his car had broken down. Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan confirmed Monday afternoon at a press conference that Crutcher had no weapon, and hinted that his department is treating his death like a crime.

The videos, including three from police cars and a fourth from a helicopter, are disturbing. None captures the entirety of the interaction between Crutcher and Officer Betty Shelby, who shot and killed him.

But all of them show him with his hands raised, walking back to the side of his car, while Shelby follows with her gun raised. Another officer arrives, and fires his Taser at roughly the same moment that Shelby shoots Crutcher.

The department did not release video from Shelby’s own cruiser. A department public information officer told ThinkProgress that none exists, because Shelby had not turned her camera on manually and never switched her roof lights into the mode that automatically activates the camera.

She was initially the only officer on the scene. Turnbough appears to have been second to arrive. He had been out of his car for less than 30 seconds when Shelby shot Crutcher.

Jordan called the videos “very disturbing” and “difficult to watch,” according to local news reporters. They also appear to contradict the officers’ initial description of what happened.

TPD initially told the public that Crutcher had ignored officers when they told him to raise his hands and reached back into his car, prompting Officer Shelby to shoot and Officer Tyler Turnbough to fire his Taser. Shelby shot Crutcher once, and he was pronounced dead later at a hospital.

But the videos show Crutcher with his hands above his head, walking slowly back to the driver’s side of his truck, when he is suddenly tased and shot. The helicopter footage includes an officer murmuring that Crutcher “looks like a bad dude,” while another acknowledges that Crutcher’s hands are up but says he doesn’t seem to be complying with Shelby’s commands.

Shelby has been with TPD since 2011. Before joining the city force, she was a deputy with the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office from summer 2007 through fall 2011, the local Fox affiliate reports. Shelby is approximately 42 years old and previously served in the Oklahoma Air National Guard for five months, excerpts from her Sheriff’s Office personnel file provided to ThinkProgress indicate.

Over the weekend, the department showed the videos to Crutcher’s family and to local leaders, including pastor Rodney Goss.

“His hands were in the air from all views,” Goss told the Tulsa World. He added that the videos showed Crutcher approaching officers near his truck, which had broken down, and then returning toward the vehicle again slowly, and being shot down.

“It was not apparent at any angle from any point that he lunged, came toward, aggressively attacked, or made any sudden movements that would have been considered a threat or life-threatening toward the officer,” Goss told the paper.

Crutcher’s twin sister Tiffany has said she wants Shelby charged. While Chief Jordan declined to answer specific questions about Crutcher’s killing Monday, he indicated his department is treating his death as a crime.

This is a criminal investigation. If you really expect me to carry this forward the way the community is asking and the way my oath says I will, I can’t discuss it further,” Jordan said. Federal investigators have opened their own separate investigation into whether or not Crutcher’s civil rights were violated, the Associated Press reported Monday afternoon.