Tulsa police officer charged in shooting death of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man
If there’s one lesson to be learned about police shootings of black men, it’s that the legal process to indict cops is a long and tiresome road. Betty Shelby, the Tulsa cop who shot Terence Crutcher has been charged with first-degree manslaughter, but that doesn’t mean she’ll be convicted. But it is good news (in a terrible, twisted way) that the Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler was able to act quickly in bringing charges and getting the wheels of the legal system turning. According to the DA’s affidavit, after reviewing the evidence, they found that Shelby’s “fear” for her life “resulted in her unreasonable actions.” She is being accused of shooting Crutcher “unlawfully and unnecessarily.”
According to CNN, one of the Crutcher family attorneys, Damario Solomon-Simmons, said in a news conference that the family is “happy charges have been brought” and that they plan on a “vigorous prosecution.” The family’s attorneys also said, “We are thankful to TPD [Tulsa Police Department], we are thankful to [Police] Chief [Chuck] Jordan for providing information to the District Attorney’s office.”
Shelby was booked and released on a $50,000 bond early Friday morning. If convicted, she faces four years to life, according to Susan Witt, the spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office.
For Black Lives Matter advocates, this isn’t a victory yet. She was booked at 1 a.m. on Friday and released about a half hour later, according to her inmate record on file with Tulsa County Jail, and who knows how long she’ll have these charges against her. There’s not a good record of convicting police officers for shooting black men or even having the charges stick for very long. Darren Wilson, who shot Mike Brown in Ferguson, was cleared by a grand jury. Charges against the officers involved in the death of Freddie Grey in Baltimore were dropped by prosecutors. A grand jury also decided that no officers would be charged in the death of Sandra Bland while she was in custody. So, it’s going to be a long road for Shelby and the Crutcher family.
There are also those on social media who are upset that Shelby is a female cop and think her arrest is sexist somehow, since male officers have all been cleared of any wrongdoing in the shooting of black men. Hey, uh, ladies? Can I make a suggestion? Maybe we can take a backseat on the sexist aspect of this for the greater good. It’s more important that officers are being charged.
Yes, men have been getting off for shooting black men, but this is the first time an officer was charged for shooting an unarmed black man like, right away. It’s been six days. This still isn’t a victory, but it feels different, if only because Tulsa officials moved quickly in reviewing and releasing the video and taking action.
In Charlotte, they’re still debating whether or not to release the video of Keith Lamont Scott’s shooting, even as the streets are filled with protesters. Charlotte is more of the same. But the pace of pressing charges in Tulsa feels different. It helps that the video of Crutcher’s shooting seems to be very straightforward. This might be the one time an officer has to take responsibility for their actions.
Crutcher’s twin sister said in a press conference, “The chain breaks here. We’re going to break the chains of police brutality. We know the history.” Let’s hope so.