Tulsa Officer is charged with manslaughter in the death of an unarmed black man

Tulsa Officer is charged with manslaughter in the death of an unarmed black man

An unarmed black man was fatally shot by a white police officer in Tulsa, Oklahoma last Friday, September 16. Less than a week after the incident, the prosecutors charged the officer with first-degree manslaughter. It was a decision made following the violent protests that happened in Charlotte after another black man was shot by police officers. A decision that may prevent another unrest in a city that has a long history of tense race relations.

Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby turned herself into the Tulsa County Jail yesterday morning and released shortly afterward on a $50,000 bond. The officer, who was charged with manslaughter, was accused of fatally shooting Terence Crutcher last Friday night.

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The family of Terence Crutcher called the charge a “small victory” while the officer’s attorney called it “a rush of justice.” According to a report, the prosecutors are right to charge the officer as Phil Turner, a defense attorney and former federal prosecutor, said “I don’t think the charge was only to give the crowd some blood. …I think (prosecutors) must have thought charges were warranted.”

The police acted quickly to release videos of the shooting to members of Crutcher’s family and black community leaders and then released them to the public. This swift action stood in contrast to Charlotte, where police refused under mounted pressure to provide video of the shooting of another black man and resulted for the National Guard to be called in after two nights of violent unrest. Since Crutcher’s death, protests in Tulsa have been consistently peaceful.

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Aerial footage of the shooting and dashcam showed Crutcher walking away from Shelby with his arms raised up. The footage does not have a clear view of Shelby firing the gun and killing Crutcher. In her affidavit, the officer said that Crutcher was not following police commands and that she opened fire when the man began to reach into his SUV window.

But Crutcher’s family discounted that claim, saying that the 40-year-old Crutcher posed no threat to the officers. The police also said that they did not find a gun in Crutcher or in his vehicle.

Shelby is scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 30 and if she is found guilty, the first-degree manslaughter carries a prison sentence of at least four years to life, according to the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office.

Photo Courtesy: Fibonacci Blue/Flickr

Video Courtesy: New York Daily News/ YouTube