Tulsa cop: Race didn't factor into fatal shooting of man
Officer Betty Jo Shelby told "60 Minutes" she used lethal force because she feared Terence Crutcher was reaching inside his SUV for a gun
By Justin Juozapavicius
TULSA, Okla. — A white Oklahoma police officer charged with manslaughter for fatally shooting an unarmed black man last year says the man's race had nothing to do with her decision to fire her gun.
Tulsa officer Betty Jo Shelby told CBS's "60 Minutes" in an interview that aired Sunday that she used lethal force because she feared 40-year-old Terence Crutcher was reaching inside his SUV for a gun.
"I'm feeling that his intent is to do me harm and I keep thinking, 'Don't do this. Please don't do this. Don't make this happen,'" Shelby told correspondent Bill Whitaker in her first interview since the Sept. 16 shooting.
Shelby said she remembers the moment Crutcher appeared to reach inside.
"And it's fast. Just that would tell any officer that that man's going for a weapon," she said. "I say with a louder, more intense voice, 'Stop. Stop! Stop!' And he didn't. And that's when I took aim."
Shelby said she also remembers pulling the trigger.
"It's like slow motion of me bringing my gun up, my finger coming in and then letting off. And he stopped and then he just slowly fell to the ground," she said.
Shelby has pleaded not guilty to first-degree manslaughter and goes to trial May 8. Prosecutors contend that Shelby overreacted because Crutcher wasn't armed or combative when she approached him on a north Tulsa street after his SUV broke down and that he obeyed orders to raise his hands.
After the shooting, investigators determined that Crutcher didn't have a weapon on him or in his SUV. The shooting was caught on video from a police helicopter and a dashboard camera. Footage showed Crutcher walking away from Shelby with his arms in the air, but the images don't provide a clear view of when Shelby fired the single shot.
Shelby believes she was swiftly charged because authorities feared civil unrest if they delayed taking action. Residents in other cities took to the streets in protest last year in response to a series of deaths of black residents during encounters with police.
Shelby said she has had difficulty coming to terms with killing someone.
"I have sorrow that this happened, that this man lost his life, but he caused the situation to occur. So in the end, he caused his own (death)," she said.
Terence Crutcher's twin sister told "60 Minutes" that her brother was obeying Shelby's commands.
"What we saw on that video is what my dad always taught my brothers, taught us to do if we were pulled over by a police officer," Tiffany Crutcher said. "Put your hands in the air and put your hands on the car. And my brother did what my father taught us," she said.
"My brother's dead because she didn't pause," according to Crutcher. "There was absolutely no justification whatsoever, with all the backup, for Officer Shelby to pull that trigger. No justification whatsoever."
Another officer had arrived at the scene prior to the shooting and a police helicopter was hovering overhead at the time.
Crutcher said she is pleased with the manslaughter charge filed against Shelby.
"I am. I don't believe she woke up that morning and said, "I'm going to go and kill Terence Crutcher." I believe that she choked and she pulled the trigger and she killed him."