The white Tulsa police officer who shot dead Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree manslaughter. Betty Shelby, 42, appeared in court in Tulsa on Friday, with Mr Crutcher’s family looking on as Judge Deborrah Ludi-Leitch set the preliminary hearing for 29 November. If convicted, Ms Shelby faces between four years and life in prison.
Ms Shelby encountered Mr Crutcher on 16 September, when his car had apparently broken down in the middle of the road in north Tulsa. Prosecutors claim she “reacted unreasonably” by escalating the confrontation. Police footage of the incident showed Mr Crutcher, 40, walking away from officers with his hands in the air before he was shot.
Ms Shelby reportedly told investigators that Mr Crutcher had refused her requests to stop and get on his knees and that she feared for her life. Her lawyer Scott Wood has claimed she experienced so-called “auditory exclusion”, which causes people in high-stress situations to involuntarily block out the sounds around them.
Ms Shelby was so focused on Mr Crutcher, Mr Wood alleges, that she failed to hear her fellow officers arrive on the scene, failed to hear one of them tell her that he had a Taser at the ready, and failed even to hear the fatal gunshot when she fired it. Charged with manslaughter last week, she turned herself in to the Tulsa County Jail and was released on $50,000 bail.Reuse content