Tags: terrence crutcher | tulsa | police | shooting

Fatal Shooting by Tulsa Officer May Be Justified

Fatal Shooting by Tulsa Officer May Be Justified

In this Friday, Sept. 30, 2016, file photo, Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby, right, is escorted from the Tulsa County Sheriff's office into a courtroom with her attorney Shannon McMurray, left, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

By Wednesday, 12 October 2016 09:57 AM Current | Bio | Archive

On Sept. 16, 2016, Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby shot and killed 40-year-old Terrence Crutcher, who was unarmed and intoxicated with the drug PCP. Officer Shelby was later charged with first-degree manslaughter, and the criminal complaint against her stated that her "fear resulted in her unreasonable action which led to her shooting" Crutcher.

On Sept. 19, dash-cam and helicopter video was released showing Crutcher with his hands up, walking away from the officer, towards his vehicle.

Later, Officer Shelby stated that she only told Crutcher to take his hands out of his pockets, but he put his hands up as well. He was told to stop several times and when he reached his car, his hands came down, and it appears on the video that he leaned towards his driver’s-side window. It’s unclear if he was reaching for the inside of his car because the video isn’t clear enough to see.

We have to rely on the officer’s statements, which suggest he was reaching into his car at the time the officer fired. He was told several times to get down on his knees and he did not comply. If he was, in fact, reaching into his car after he was told several times to get down, and the officers perceived a threat that he may be reaching for a weapon, this shooting may be justified.

The fact is that this man refused to comply with the officer’s commands and subsequently dropped his hands. If there was a gun in the car, and he was reaching for it, and the officers waited until they saw it, then an officer might be dead right now. What I am certain about: if Crutcher had complied with the officers he would be alive today, that he is dead by his own action, and that the officer only reacted when she perceived a threat.

The question here is: did Officer Shelby have a reasonable belief that either her or the other officers' lives were in danger as a result of Crutcher not having his hands up and perhaps attempting to reach in his vehicle? Based on what I have seen so far, I believe Officer Shelby may have had every reason to shoot Crutcher. However, I have not heard any statements by the other officers who were on the scene at the time of the shooting.

Almost immediately the family came out with a statement that Crutcher was shot with his hands up even though they were never on the scene and had not seen the video. Benjamin Crump, who is the attorney for the Crutcher family, stated that there was blood on the glass and the window was up. This is untrue, as we know the window was down, and from what I saw on the video, which I analyzed, I saw blood on the door and could not tell if the window was up or down.

Something that always adds to the confusion is that attorneys representing families in these matters in many of these cases mislead the public with what they assume the facts are before they come out. It is assumptions like this that are made just to grab a headline — a headline that inflates tensions and sometimes causes civil unrest.

I believe that because of the nature of the job, police officers should always be given the benefit of the doubt first, and not second-guessed until the shooting investigation is completed. When an officer is forced to fire his or her weapon, he or she does not see the color of the skin of that person, the officer sees the threat and reacts to it — it's as simple as that. Firing a weapon is the last thing an officer wants to do because that action will change the officer's life forever.

Pulling the trigger will be the hardest decision a police officer has to make in his or her career.

Just one squeeze, sending a bullet in the direction of another, is a life changing experience with unknown ramifications. Police officers have only milliseconds to make a decision to shoot to save their own lives or that of another. Just one hesitation may mean you never get to go home to your family again, and that’s something they live with every day and accept.

How an officer perceives a threat is based on their own training and thought process, not that of others who have never faced that danger.

Harry Houck is a CNN law enforcement analyst, retired NYPD Detective First Grade, and USMC veteran. Follow him on Twitter, @HarryJHouck, or Facebook. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

If he was, in fact, reaching into his car after he was told several times to get down, and the officers perceived a threat that he may be reaching for a weapon, this shooting may be justified.
terrence crutcher, tulsa, police, shooting
Wednesday, 12 October 2016 09:57 AM
Newsmax Media, Inc.

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

America's News Page
© Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved