While whirling above the scene in Oklahoma, police officers in a helicopter commented that a black pastor with his hands above his head “This looks like a bad dude.” Moments later, the armed man was shot to death by a female police officer outside of Tulsa. Pastor Terence Crutcher was first tasered by one officer, but was shot by another when he allegedly did not obey officers’ commands. Crutcher was on the ground when he was shot.
Crutcher was first tasered by Tulsa officer Tyler Turnbough. Officer Betty Shelby followed up with one round from her pistol on September 16. The pastor was declared dead later in hospital, according to a police department spokesperson. He was unarmed and 40 years old at the time. He has a twin sister, Tiffany. Their father, Rev. Joey Crutcher, is a preacher. Crutcher had left Tulsa Community College when his vehicle stalled in the street.
Officer Shelby is on administrative leave. According to authorities, Shelby worked for the Tulsa County sheriff’s department as a deputy for four years before transferring to the Tulsa Police Department in December 2011.
Police claim that Crutcher approached the officers after his vehicle broke down on the highway. They allege that he refused commands to raise his hands, and then reached into his vehicle. Appearing to contradict law enforcement’s claims, video shows that Crutcher had indeed raised his hands while police approached him. Four officers surrounded Crutcher, who stood next to his SUV. road, but refused commands to raise his hands and reached inside the vehicle.
The footage, which was yesterday, shows Crutcher did have his hands up as police approached. It shows four officers surrounding Crutcher by his car when one of them - identified as Shelby - shot him.
Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan said he found the video “very disturbing — very difficult to watch.”
Pastor Crutcher lies on the road after being shot by Tulsa police.
Transcription of audio from helicopter:
OFFICER 1: 'He's got his hands up for her now.
'This guy's still walking and not following commands.'
OFFICER 2: 'Time for taser I think.'
OFFICER 1: 'I've got a feeling this is going to happen.'
'That looks like a bad dude too, Probably on something.'
VOICE OVER THE RADIO: 'I think he may have been tasered.
'We've got shots fired... suspect down.'
Chief Jordan admitted that no gun was found with Crutcher or his vehicle. Citing a pending investigation, he would not provide further details. According to the Tulsa World, he said, “It will come out.” He added, “I will make this promise to you: We will achieve justice in this case.” Investigators will seek to determine whether Officer Shelby was justified in shooting Crutcher. They will look into whether criminal charges are warranted and if Crutcher’s civil rights were violated.
Tiffany Crutcher, the pastor’s sister, is calling for criminal charges. “The big bad dude was my twin brother. That big bad dude was a father. That big bad dude was a son. That big 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.”
Video captured on the scene shows Crutcher approaching his SUV, which had halted in the middle of the road. A female officer follows him while his hands are up. Three male officers approach as Crutcher goes to the driver’s side of his vehicle and appears to lower his hands. At one point, the officers surround him and thus obscure the perspective from the dashcam.
Video did not show the first moments’ of the encounter because Officer Shelby neglected to activate her dashcam. A video taken at the scene at ground level was taken by another officer. Police spokesperson Jeanne MacKenzie said that she did not know why Shelby shot Crutcher.
Two 911 emergency calls alerted police to a broken-down SUV in the middle of the road in Tulsa. One caller said the driver was acting strangely and added, “I think he's smoking something.”
Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump said Crutcher had committed no crime and gave no reason to be killed. “When unarmed people of color break down on the side of the road, we're not treated as citizens needing help. We're treated as, I guess, criminals - suspects that they fear.” He added, “ 'So I guess it's a crime now to be a big black man. My God, help us.'
U.S. Attorney Danny C. Williams said the Department of Justice will conduct a separate civil rights investigation into the shooting. “The Justice Department is committed to investigating allegations of force by law enforcement officers and will devote whatever resources are necessary to ensure that all allegations of serious civil rights violations are fully and completely investigated,” he said.
Tulsa Police Sgt. Shane Tuell confirmed that relatives were shown the recordings Sunday ahead of the planned public release.
"We wanted them to see it before it was released so they wouldn't be blindsided by it," Tuell said. "We wanted to be able to have that intimate time with them, with their attorney, to see if they had any questions or concerns. With something of this magnitude, we're trying an approach that we believe is necessary to further that transparency."
Attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons, who is representing the Crutcher family, told the media on September 17 that Crutcher was in the area because his car stalled and officers saw him while on an unrelated call and approached. “From that point, I do not know what occurred. We have no idea, and that's what is so difficult for us and the family,” Solomon-Simmons said. “That's our job, to try to get answers for this family as they're mourning.”
Jeanne MacKenzie, the Tulsa police spokesperson, said an officer responding to another call saw the vehicle in the middle of the road and called for backup, and the two officers were walking toward the SUV when Crutcher approached them from the side of the road.
Online court records show a record for a Terrence Crutcher of Tulsa, with the same date of birth as the man who was killed, pleaded no contest in 1996 to carrying a concealed weapon and resisting an officer. He was given a six-month suspended sentence. Crutcher’s only other court records show only traffic violations.