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Tulsa: It Is Time to Stop Pointing Fingers

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Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby, who shot and killed an unarmed black man, pleaded not guilty to the charge of first-degree manslaughter brought against her. Shelby is due back in court on November 29.

The incident in question occurred earlier this month when Shelby, a five-year veteran with the Tulsa Police Department, was responding to 911 calls regarding a car stalled in the middle of the road and its driver who was acting suspiciously.     

Footage of the shooting from both a helicopter and a dashboard camera show the man, Terrence Crutcher, slowly walking away from officers toward his car with his hands up. As Mr. Crutcher appears to reach into the driver’s side window, he is shot.

While the other officers who arrived on the scene refrained from using their weapons, Ms. Shelby fired her weapon because Mr. Crutcher failed to comply with her commands and she “was in fear of her life.” Scott Wood, Shelby’s attorney, told the Tulsa World, “He has his hands up and is facing the car and looks at Shelby, and his left-hand goes through the car window, and that’s when she fired her shot.” No weapons were found on Mr. Crutcher or in his vehicle.  

We have reached a dangerous point in this country when people are quick to pass judgments and refuse to wait for the facts.

Those on social media were quick to condemn Officer Shelby and peg her at the least as a horribly incompetent officer and at worst a murderer and racist. While the video footage certainly does not make the police officer look good, we should not point fingers and call police officers murderers and racists before knowing all the facts.

Terrence Crutcher’s family, members of the Black Lives Matter movement, and many others in this country claim that Mr. Crutcher was complying with officers’ commands. They say since his hands were up, he was obeying orders. However, if this is true, why was he walking away from officers? No police officer would ever command someone to put their hands up and slowly walk back to their car where there could be a weapon. It makes much more sense to order them to put their hands up and either stay where they are or get on the ground. Unless if the encounter is over, a person would not be told to go back to their car and in this case the encounter clearly was not over.

Furthermore, Officer Shelby says she believed Mr. Crutcher was under the influence of PCP. Shelby, who has drug-recognition training, claims that Crutcher’s strange and erratic behavior led her to believe he was on PCP. This is important to note because, under the influence of PCP, a person hallucinates and does not feel pain, thus rendering a Taser useless. Autopsy and toxicology reports have yet to be released, but if they indicate Crutcher was under the influence, it could prove to be a major factor in the outcome of the trial. Such an autopsy result would not necessarily absolve Ms. Shelby of her actions. Additional evidence, such as statements from officers on the scene and anyone who may have seen Crutcher at the scene before officers arrived, would be needed to acquit Shelby. However, if Crutcher was in fact on PCP, it could be argued that he was a threat and thus Shelby was justified in her actions.  
I want to make it clear that I am in no way trying to justify this shooting. The video footage appears to be very damning to Ms. Shelby and hopefully truth and justice will prevail in the end. However, I do not believe Ms. Shelby is a murderer or that she shot and killed Terrence Crutcher solely because he was black. We have reached a dangerous point in this country when people are quick to pass judgments and refuse to wait for the facts. If we, as a country, place the blame on others rather than considering the facts, then we will never be able to come together and improve our nation.

8 Comments

  1. Black lives matter

  2. Black lives matter

  3. This argument is so narcissistic that it is almost the textbook illustration of white privilege. The simple affirmation of the value of Black lives is so egregious in the minds of some people that not mentioning White people is an offense in and of itself. Therefore – in their egocentric logic – “Black Lives Matter” must really have an unsaid, silent “only” prefacing it. Thus, the need for “White Lives Matter.” Using the sound logic of the “All Lives Matter” argument we should also shut down the divisive insidiousness of Breast Cancer walks because they ignore prostate cancer and leukemia. All cancers matter, right?

    • how does this statement relate to the article???? The article was not trashing black lives matter, it discussed whether Officer Shelby was guilty or not. It discusses what Officer Shelby perceived during the event. The author also shared with us on his opinion of what the outcome of the trial should be.

  4. You’re right. Everyone should cooperate with any person telling them to do something when that person is holding a gun in their hand. It makes common sense and preserves life. BUT – and there is a very big “but” here – the penalty for disobeying a “lawful order” isn’t death. If we are a nation of laws then the true individual liberties people so often tout means that every citizen has the choice between lawfulness and the punishment for lawlessness. If there is a segment of society for whom officers are the judge and jury – then they aren’t “law enforcement” officers by definition.

  5. Everyone knows that all cops aren’t bad cops, but the opposing arguers are always loathe to admit that it is statistically impossible for every single law enforcement agency to employ a work force that is 100% capable and 0% corrupt, which means, conversely, that there must be at least the possibility that bad cops exist.

    Studies show that people who live in minority and poor neighborhoods are statistically more likely to be the victims of crime, which means the people in these neighborhoods are more dependent on law enforcement for their safety and well-being. It is easy to dismiss the existence of a “small minority” of bad policemen when you live in safe suburbs and don’t need them to protect your life, property or safety. The reason Black populations are so adamant about highlighting corruption in law enforcement and neighborhood policing is because they are the ones who depend on law enforcement and neighborhood policemen. Many of the detractors of the Black Lives Matter movement are the equivalent of vegetarians trying to goad people into eating rotting horsemeat by saying “Well, some of it is good.”

  6. There are reasonable people who contend that the phrase “Black Lives Matter” has become too divisive. They say the American mainstream views it as too militant and anti-white, so even though there are good intentions, it automatically turns people off.

  7. Very interesting read. I hope that others will realize that they should wait until all the facts are released before jumping to a conclusion about something.