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Officer Betty Shelby Court Ruling for Killing of Terrence Crutcher

On Wednesday, May 16th, a jury acquitted a Caucasian Tulsa police officer was involved in the shooting of an unarmed black man, Terence Crutcher. Officer Betty Shelby had been charged with manslaughter in September 2016 for a routine traffic stop that went too far. This case in Oklahoma and a number of police shootings of unarmed blacks across the United States have provoked concerns over police brutality in recent years.

On the day of the shooting, a witness called 9-1-1, saying a man was running away from a vehicle, in fear of it blowing up. Shelby testified that she arrived to the scene and no one was in the car. When she turned around to her patrol car, she said Crutcher was walking toward her, alternating putting his hands in the air and his pockets. She went on to testify that he would not comply with her commands to put his hands in the air and that he was sweating heavily and smelled of PCP chemicals.

She said Crutcher went to put his hands in the vehicle, and that is when Shelby fired her weapon at his lung and the other officer tased him. Crutcher was found to be unarmed after the shooting. Shelby was arrested after officials released a video of the shooting.

On May 10, she had begun to be on trial and told the courthouse she fired the weapon because “she feared for her life” and added “Crutcher’s death is his fault.” Before the verdict was announced, nine hours after deliberation began, the jury of nine Whites and three Blacks asked the judge if they could explain their decision in court but they were told to just state the verdict only.

Crutcher’s family believe the verdict was a disappointment, seeing that “Terence was not the aggressor. Betty Shelby was the aggressor.” said his twin sister. In addition, Crutcher’s father, Joseph told reporters “Let it be known that I believe in my heart that Betty Shelby got away with murder, and I don’t know what was in the mind of that jury.”

As for the freed police officer, she left the courtroom without making a statement. Shelby was placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation. Defense Attorney Shannon McMurray says Shelby is "elated" by the ruling, adding, "She's ready to get back to her life." After the jury's verdict was announced, a demonstration prompted outside the courthouse, with protesters chanting, "Hands up, don't shoot!" and "No justice, no peace, no racist police!"

Jerad Lindsey, chairman of Tulsa Fraternal Order of Police, said the jury’s decision was the right one, but the shooting is still a tragedy. "There's still a family that has dealt with a tragedy here, the Crutchers, and we still extend our deepest sympathies to them,” he said. Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum added that Tulsa still must work to address it’s racial disparities. "After considering days of testimony and undergoing its own deliberation, the jury has spoken. I appreciate the jurors' service to our community and respect their verdict, but this verdict does not alter the course on which we are adamantly set. 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.”

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