Police: Officer who fatally shot unarmed Okla. man had stun gun

TULSA -- A police spokesman says the Oklahoma officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man had a stun gun at the time but did not use it.

Tulsa Police Sgt. Shane Tuell tells The Associated Press that officer Betty Shelby was certified on the use of stun guns. Police say Shelby fatally shot 40-year-old Terence Crutcher on Friday while responding to a report of a stalled vehicle.

Police say Crutcher did not have a weapon on him or in his SUV.

Shelby’s attorney, Scott Wood, told the Tulsa World that Shelby opened fire and another officer used a stun gun when Crutcher’s “left hand goes through the car window.”

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Terence Crutcher

KOTV

But at a press conference Tuesday, attorneys representing Crutcher’s family provided an enlarged photo of the police footage that appeared to show that Crutcher’s window was up at the time of the shooting.

Attorney Benjamin Crump said it was clear Crutcher was holding his hands up and that he was not moving in an aggressive manner. He said police treated him like a suspect, though he wasn’t a suspect in a crime.

“Yesterday, in America, we witnessed a person who bombed a building and injured 29 people, in fact, and he wasn’t taken down with lethal force,” Crump said, referring the the arrest Monday of the man suspected in a series of explosions in New York and New Jersey. “He wasn’t killed, so why is a unarmed black man who has not committed a crime, who needed a hand, why does he get bullets in his lungs?

Family attorney Melvin Hall said Crutcher posed no threat to the officers.

“To use lethal excessive force under these circumstances was not warranted and was not called for,” Hall said.

Police video from the incident Friday shows Crutcher walking away from the officers and toward his SUV with his hands up when one officer shocks him with a stun gun and he falls to the ground. He is then shot and killed.

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Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby

Tulsa Police Department via AP

It’s not clear from the footage what led Betty Shelby, the officer who fired the fatal shot, to draw her gun or what orders officers gave Crutcher. Wood said Crutcher was not following the officers’ commands. 

Two 911 calls described an SUV that had been abandoned in the middle of the road. One unidentified caller said the driver was acting strangely, adding, “I think he’s smoking something.” 
     
David Riggs, an attorney for the Crutcher family, said Tuesday he’s not sure whether Crutcher was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. But he said the situation was a “textbook case of how not to handle a situation like this.”

“Not everyone who is under the influence is a threat to us, we can’t treat people with drug conditions like this, and we need to make that point clear,” Riggs said.

After the shooting, Crutcher could be seen lying on the side of the road, blood pooling around his body, for nearly two minutes before anyone checked on him. When asked why police did not provide immediate assistance, police spokeswoman Jeanne MacKenzie said: “I don’t know that we have protocol on how to render aid to people.” 

Local and federal investigations are underway to determine whether criminal charges are warranted in the shooting or if Crutcher’s civil rights were violated. 
     
Tulsa police helicopter footage was among several clips showing the shooting of Crutcher and its aftermath. In that video, a man in the helicopter that arrives above the scene as Crutcher walks to the vehicle can be heard saying “time for a Taser.” He then says: “That looks like a bad dude, too. Probably on something.” 

Crutcher’s twin sister, Tiffany Crutcher, called for charges Monday. 

“The big bad dude was my twin brother. That big bad dude was a father,” she said. “That big bad dude was a son. That big bad dude was enrolled at Tulsa Community College, just wanting to make us proud. That big bad dude loved God. That big bad dude was at church singing with all of his flaws, every week. That big bad dude, that’s who he was.” 

Police video shows Crutcher walking toward his SUV that is stopped in the middle of the road. His hands are up and a female officer is following him. As Crutcher approaches the driver’s side of the SUV, three male officers walk up and Crutcher appears to lower his hands and place them on the vehicle. The officers surround him, making it harder to see his actions from the dashboard camera’s angle.

Crutcher can be seen dropping to the ground. Someone on the police radio says, “I think he may have just been Tasered.” One of the officers near Crutcher backs up slightly. 

Then almost immediately, someone can be heard yelling, “Shots fired!” Crutcher’s head then drops, leaving him lying out in the street.

After that, someone on the police radio can be heard saying, “Shots fired. We have one suspect down.” 

Officer Tyler Turnbough, who is also white, used a stun gun on Crutcher, police said. Shelby’s attorney, Wood, said Turnbough fired the stun gun at the same time Shelby opened fire because both perceived a threat. 

Shelby’s mother-in-law said her daughter-in-law is grieving for the victim’s family and isn’t prejudiced.

Lois Shelby told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday that Shelby “thought she had to protect her own life” when she fatally shot Crutcher.

Dozens of protesters have called for Shelby’s immediate arrest for her role in Crutcher’s shooting Friday, and at least one other protest is planned Tuesday to call for charges against her. Shelby has been on paid leave since the shooting.

Lois Shelby, a retired schoolteacher, says Betty Shelby always wanted to become a police officer.

Betty Shelby declined to comment to The Associated Press on Tuesday and referred all calls to her attorney.