An unarmed black man killed by a white Oklahoma officer who was responding to a stalled vehicle can be seen in police video walking away from officers and toward his SUV with his hands up before he approaches the driver’s side door, where he drops to the ground after being shocked with a stun gun then fatally shot. In Tulsa police helicopter footage that was among several clips released Monday showing the shooting of 40-year-old Terence Crutcher and its aftermath, a man in the helicopter that arrives above the scene as Crutcher walks to the vehicle can been heard saying “time for a Taser.” He then says: “That looks like a bad dude, too. Probably on something.”
Police Chief Chuck Jordan announced before the video and audio recordings’ release that Crutcher had no weapon on him or in his SUV when he was shot Friday. It’s not clear from the footage what led Betty Shelby, the officer who fired the fatal shot, to draw her gun or what orders officers might have given Crutcher. Local and federal investigations are underway to determine whether criminal charges are warranted in the shooting or if Crutcher’s civil rights were violated. Crutcher’s twin sister, Tiffany Crutcher, called for charges Monday.
“The big bad dude was my twin brother. That big bad dude was a father,” she said. “That big bad dude was a son. That big bad dude was enrolled at Tulsa Community College, just wanting to make us proud. That big bad dude loved God. That big bad dude was at church singing with all of his flaws, every week. That big bad dude, that’s who he was.”
Police video shows Crutcher walking toward his SUV with his hands up and a female officer following him. The vehicle is stopped in the middle of the road. As Crutcher approaches the driver’s side of the SUV, three male officers walk up and Crutcher appears to lower his hands and place them on the vehicle. The officers surround him, making it harder to see his actions from the police dashboard camera’s angle. Crutcher can be seen dropping to the ground. Someone on the police radio says, “I think he may have just been tasered.” One of the officers near Crutcher backs up slightly.
Then almost immediately, someone can be heard yelling, “Shots fired!” Crutcher’s head then drops, leaving him completely lying out in the street. After that someone on the police radio can be heard saying, “Shots fired. We have one suspect down.” Police spokeswoman Jeanne MacKenzie had said earlier that police briefings indicated Crutcher was not obeying the officers’ commands. She said Monday that she didn’t know what Crutcher was doing that prompted police to shoot.
“I’m not privy to those details,” she said. She said Shelby did not activate her patrol car’s dashcam.
“Officers have discretion whether or not to turn their light bar on,” she said. “The dashcam is attached to the light bar. There is no policy saying if you’re on this kind of call, you do this.”
Officer Tyler Turnbough, who is also white, used a stun gun on Crutcher, police said. At a solemn news conference Monday, police and local officials vowed to fully investigate Crutcher’s death. The shooting comes five months after a former volunteer deputy in Tulsa County, Robert Bates, was sentenced to four years in prison on a second-degree manslaughter conviction in the death of an unarmed black man. With already-uneasy relations between police and blacks in the community, Tulsa needs to be the place where change happens, Tiffany Crutcher said.
Watch the Video of the Shooting
“That big bad dude- his life mattered. His life mattered. His life mattered, and the chain breaks here,” she said. “We’re going to stop it right here in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This is bigger than us right here. We’re going to stop it right here.” US Attorney Danny C. Williams said the Department of Justice’s civil rights investigation into the shooting will be separate from a local one into whether criminal charges should be filed.
“The Justice Department is committed to investigating allegations of force by law enforcement officers and will devote whatever resources are necessary to ensure that all allegations of serious civil rights violations are fully and completely investigated,” he said. Speaking Monday in Tulsa, civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump said Crutcher committed no crime and gave officers no reason to shoot him.
“When unarmed people of color break down on the side of the road, we’re not treated as citizens needing help,” said Crump, who has also represented the family of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. “We’re treated as I guess criminals, suspects that they fear. Big bad dudes, and I don’t know what they mean because they didn’t know who Terence Crutcher was. But they came to a conclusion that he was a big bad dude and was that in the officer’s mind when she shot him? So I guess it’s a crime now to be a big black man. My God, help us.”