Once again the nation is horrified and heartbroken as yet another video has come to light showing the shooting death of an unarmed African-American man at the hands of white police officers. The incident occurred last Friday evening in Tulsa, Oklahoma when 40-year-old Terence Crutcher was tasered and shot after police responded to a call of an abandoned vehicle. Though lawyers for the officers claim Crutcher was acting erratically and not following orders, the video clearly shows Crutcher walking away with his hands in the air from the four armed police officers. He then pauses at the side of his vehicle, at which point the video is obscured, and in the next instant his body falls to the ground, blood pouring from his wounds.
The video released by Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan comes from the dashboard camera of officer Tyler Turnbough, who was called for backup, and a police helicopter. In an odd coincidence, one of the officers in the helicopter is the husband of Betty Shelby, the Tulsa police officer who shot and killed the unarmed Crutcher. Shelby joined the force in 2011 and is a field-training officer. She has two previous excessive force complaints against her, though, they were determined to be unfounded, and four letters of commendation and an Oklahoma meritorious service award. At the same time Shelby’s bullets ripped through Crutcher’s body, he was being shot by a Taser gun by officer Turnbough. Shelby gave a statement to homicide detectives Monday and both officers are currently on paid administrative leave.
Terence Crutcher was a father of four who was an prominent member of his church, where he sang with the choir. At the time of his fatal encounter with police, he was on his way home from Tulsa Community College, where he was taking a music appreciation class.
Tulsa police and city officials have promised full transparency and a thorough investigation, with Chief Jordan saying, “I want to assure our community and assure all of you, and people across the nation looking at this, we will achieve justice." Local NAACP leader Pleas Thompson was optimistic, saying, “I think the justice system will work here in Tulsa, because we’ve seen it work before.” Thompson was referring to the four-year manslaughter sentence handed down to Robert Bates, who killed Eric Harris after mistakenly shooting him with his gun instead of his Taser while serving as a reserve deputy in Tulsa.