An attorney for the white Oklahoma police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black man said she did so in self-defence, claiming that the victim was reaching into his vehicle when she opened fire.
Recently released dashcam and helicopter footage from Tulsa Police shows Terence Crutcher, 40, walking away from police toward his SUV with arms held high. One officer deployed a Taser shortly before the other, identified as Betty Shelby, fired the deadly round into Crutcher.
The video raised questions about the initial account from police, who said Crutcher refused to put his hands up before the shooting.
“He has his hands up and is facing the car and looks at Shelby, and his left hand goes through the car window, and that’s when she fired her shot,” Scott Wood, attorney for Ms Shelby, told Tulsa World on Tuesday.
Mr Wood said the officer claimed to have seen Crutcher put his hands near his pockets and reach through the driver’s side window of the vehicle – a moment obscured in both dashcam and helicopter video.
Police were initially responding to reports of a stalled vehicle in the middle of the road. It remains unclear what led to officers drawing their weapons on Crutcher, who was reportedly on his way home from attending courses at a local community college on Friday night.
But the shooting has drawn significant scrutiny to the police department as yet another unarmed black person was killed in what would otherwise be a routine traffic stop. Local and federal investigators are looking into whether or not criminal or civil rights charges against the responding officers are warranted.
One particular moment that raises concerns comes from an officer in the helicopter footage, who can be heard saying,“That looks like a bad dude, too. Probably on something,” referring to Crutcher.
“The big bad dude was my twin brother. That big bad dude was a father,” said Tiffany Crutcher as she called for charges on Monday. “That big bad dude was a son. That bit 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.”
Betty Shelby’s mother-in-law said the officer is not guilty of wrongdoing, and called for sympathy from others for the pain suffered by the Shelby family.
“She wouldn’t harm anyone, we’re all sick, we feel for the [Crutcher] family,” Lois Shelby told the Associated Press. “But, you know, we have a family that goes out every day and faces life and death. And when she is being accused of things she didn’t do wrong, it’s too much, and they don’t think about our family.”
Ms Shelby joined the Tulsa Police in 2011 after serving with the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office since 2007. She was placed on paid administrative leave while the department investigates the shooting.
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