Jury acquits Tulsa police officer in shooting of unarmed black man - here's what you should know

Jury acquits Tulsa police officer in shooting of unarmed black man - here's what you should know

A jury has acquitted a white Oklahoma police officer of first-degree manslaughter who said she fired out of fear last year when she killed an unarmed black man with his hands held above his head.

Here’s everything you need to know about the shooting of Terence Crutcher.

What are the details of the shooting?

Tiffany Crutcher, centre, sister of Terence Crutcher,
Tiffany Crutcher, centre, sister of Terence Crutcher, talks with the media following a verdict (Sue Ogrocki/AP)

Tulsa officer Betty Jo Shelby said she fired her weapon in the September 16 shooting out of fear because she said Crutcher didn’t obey her commands to lie on the ground and appeared to reach inside his car for what she thought was a gun. Crutcher was unarmed.

Shelby also said she feared Crutcher was under the influence of PCP, a powerful hallucinogenic known as Angel Dust.

An autopsy showed PCP was in Crutcher’s system, and police said they found a vial of it in his vehicle.

Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler charged Shelby six days after the shooting. An affidavit accused her of “becoming emotionally involved to the point that she overreacted”.

The killing of 40-year-old Crutcher was among a spate of officer-involved shootings in recent years that helped galvanise the Black Lives Matter movement and prompted calls for more police accountability.

What did Shelby’s lawyers say in court?

Shannon McMurray, left, and Scott Wood, defense attorneys
Shannon McMurray and Scott Wood, defence attorneys for Shelby(Sue Ogrocki/AP)

They argued that in the two minutes before cameras began recording the encounter, Shelby repeatedly ordered Crutcher to stop walking away from her and get on the ground.

Defence lawyer Shannon McMurray argued that prosecutors rushed to charge Shelby for political reasons, fearing civil unrest like the angry street protests that erupted in Charlotte, North Carolina, after the fatal shooting of 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott four days after Crutcher was killed.

McMurray said the officer was “elated” that the jury found her not guilty. “She’s ready to get back to her life,” she said.

What did the prosecution say during the trial?

Tulsa Police Officer Betty Jo Shelby, right, leaves the courthouse to wait for a verdict with attorney Scott Wood
Prosecutors told jurors that Shelby overreacted (Mike Simons/AP)

Prosecutors told jurors that Shelby overreacted. They noted Crutcher had his hands in the air and was not combative – part of which was confirmed by police video taken from a dashboard camera and helicopter that showed Crutcher walking away from Shelby, hands held above his head.

What was the reaction in court to the verdict?

Two women embrace after leaving the courtroom
Two women embrace after leaving the courtroom and hearing the verdict (Sue Ogrocki/AP)

The family of Crutcher burst into tears and reacted with outrage.

Shelby looked stone-faced when the verdict was read, but Crutcher’s family was quickly ushered out of the courtroom.

And what was the reaction outside of the court room like?

A group of protesters block Denver Avenue near the Tulsa County Courthouse
A group of protesters block Denver Avenue near the Tulsa County Courthouse (Mike Simons/AP)

About 100 demonstrators gathered in a plaza outside the courthouse on Wednesday evening in peaceful protest at the verdict. They chanted: “No Justice, No Peace. No Racist Police”.

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