Terence Crutcher family: Betty Shelby "got away with murder"

TULSA -- The sister of an unarmed Oklahoma man who was killed by Tulsa Police officer Betty Shelby last year said Shelby "got away with murder" when she was acquitted of manslaughter Wednesday.

Shelby said she was in fear for her life Sept. 16 when she killed Terence Crutcher, a 40-year-old father, who had his hands held above his head. 

Speaking Thursday, however, Terence Crutcher's sister said Shelby "executed" her brother without justification.

"Somehow the police training doesn't allow for them to take gambles with their lives, but it's okay for them to take gambles with our lives," said Terence Crutcher's twin, Tiffany Crutcher, speaking at a press conference. "Terence didn't have a gun, he didn't attack her, he didn't say anything to her, he had his hands up and she still got away with murder."

Shelby testified that she fired her weapon out of fear because she said Crutcher didn't obey her commands to lie on the ground and appeared to reach inside his SUV for what she thought was a gun. Crutcher was unarmed.

Prosecutors told jurors that Shelby overreacted. They noted Crutcher had his hands in the air and wasn't combative -- part of which was confirmed by police video taken from a dashboard camera and helicopter that showed Crutcher walking away from Shelby.

Shelby's attorneys argued that in the two minutes before cameras began recording the encounter, Shelby repeatedly ordered Crutcher to stop walking away from her and get on the ground.

Shelby also said she feared Crutcher was under the influence of PCP, a powerful hallucinogenic known as Angel Dust that makes users erratic, unpredictable and combative. An autopsy showed PCP was in Crutcher's system, and police said they found a vial of it in his SUV.

Thursday, Tiffany Crutcher called on city leaders to block Shelby, who was placed on unpaid leave after the shooting, from returning to her job. Tiffany Crutcher says Shelby is violent, lacks training and should not return to patrolling the streets, saying her "temperament is unfit to serve and protect our community."

Speaking earlier Thursday, Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan said Shelby's status is under review and a decision would be announced shortly.

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Tiffany Crutcher stands with family lawyers and supporters during a Tulsa press conference May 18, 2017

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Tiffany Crutcher also called on Jordan and Mayor G.T. Bynum to terminate Sgt. Dave Walker, the detective who testified at trial that he allowed Shelby to first watch the video of the deadly encounter before taking her statement. Family attorneys also called for financial compensation for Crutcher's children.

"We don't want Terence Crutcher's name to be just another hashtag," Tiffany Crutcher said. "Terence Crutcher's name is going to be the name that invokes change – the name that reforms this police department here in Tulsa, Oklahoma."

Local leaders called for "full justice" for Terence Crutcher and "tangible reform" within the Tulsa Police Department. Rodney Goss, pastor of Morning Star Baptist Church, said a disparity exists between the treatment of African-Americans and Caucasians by police in Tulsa.

"We're not making this a race issue, it is a race issue," Goss said.

In an exclusive interview with "60 Minutes" last month, Shelby said she felt almost any police officer in her position would have acted as she did. Shelby said race was not a factor in the shooting.

"I'm feeling that his intent is to do me harm and I keep thinking, 'Don't do this. Please don't do this. Don't make this happen,'" Shelby said on "60 Minutes."

She said she felt Crutcher's death was his own fault.

"I have sorrow that this happened that this man lost his life but he caused the situation to occur," Shelby said. "So in the end, he caused his own. 

Shelby looked stone-faced on Wednesday when the verdict was read, but her lawyer said she was "elated" with the jury's decision.

"She's ready to get back to her life," defense attorney Shannon McMurray said.

The initial reaction from the community in the hours after Wednesday night's verdict was peaceful. About 100 demonstrators gathered outside the courthouse and some briefly blocked a main street, but police kept a relatively low profile, standing about a block away.

Bynum said at a news conference Thursday that he respected the jury's decision, while also calling Tulsa's racial divide the city's greatest moral issue. He said police reforms are already underway, including the rollout of body cameras for every officer, a new hiring push focused on strengthening community policing, the institution of citizen advisory boards, and the creation of a citywide African American affairs commission. 

"This verdict does not alter the course on which we are adamantly set," he said. "It does not change our recognition of the racial disparities that have afflicted Tulsa historically. It does not change our work to institute community policing measures that empower citizens to work side-by-side with police officers in making our community safer."

At least four of the 12 jurors were crying as they left the courtroom Wednesday, and they did not look at either Crutcher's family or Shelby. The jury comprised eight women and four men and included three African Americans.

Crutcher's family was quickly ushered out of the courtroom sobbing and wailing after the decision.        

Crutcher's family said police attempted to "demonize" Crutcher over the drug possession to deflect attention from the fact that he wasn't armed. Radio chatter that captured moments before the shooting included an officer saying Crutcher looked "like a bad dude" who "could be on something." The statements outraged Crutcher's family, who said they indicated a racial bias.

Crutcher's killing was among a spate of officer-involved shootings in recent years that helped galvanize the Black Lives Matter movement and prompted calls for more police accountability.

Marq Lewis, organizer of the local civil rights group We The People Oklahoma, said the verdict was a blow to Tulsa's black community.

"When is it going to stop -- just officer-related shootings? When will the police change policy?" he asked.

Tulsa has a long history of troubled race relations dating back to a 1921 race riot that left about 300 black residents dead. In 2015, a poorly trained white volunteer deputy, Robert Bates, shot and killed a black man after Bates said he mistakenly reached for his gun rather than a Taser. The shooting led to the departure of the sheriff.

A Tulsa jury convicted the then-74-year-old Bates of second-degree manslaughter and he was sentenced to four years in prison.

Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler charged Shelby six days after Crutcher was killed. An affidavit accused her of "becoming emotionally involved to the point that she overreacted."

Defense attorney McMurray argued that prosecutors rushed to charge Shelby for political reasons, fearing civil unrest like the angry street protests that erupted in Charlotte, North Carolina, after the fatal shooting of 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott four days after Crutcher was killed. But the reaction in Tulsa was more muted, with protests but no violence.