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Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby Charged With Manslaughter in Killing of Terence Crutcher

A significant step. But we have a long way to go before we can know for certain whether we’ll get justice for Terence Crutcher.


Tulsa, Okla. Police Officer Betty Shelby

Betty Shelby, the Tulsa police officer who was responsible for the shooting death of Terence Crutcher on Friday last week and subsequently placed on administrative leave, has been charged with first-degree felony manslaughter, said District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler.

Footage of the incident shows Crutcher walking back to his vehicle with his hands raised before the fatal shots were fired. We also hear audio of the helicopter pilot that arrived on the scene (who is Shelby’s husband) stereotyping Crutcher as a “bad dude.”

For her part, Shelby said she was filled with fear as she approached Crutcher and described the encounter as one of scariest moments of her life.

Police officials claim that Crutcher was acting insubordinant and refused to follow commands, according to TheGuardian.com. However, Crutcher’s death — alongside the killing of Charlotte resident Keith Lamont Scott on Tuesday — ignited nationwide protests and street demonstrations.

Related: Charlotte Police Claim They Gave Keith Lamont Scott “Clear” Orders To Drop His Gun

Earlier this week, the Department of Justice launched its own separate investigation.

During a press conference held on Thursday, Kunzweiler said the following:

“Despite the heightened tensions felt by all, which seemingly beg for an emotional response and reaction, our community has consistently demonstrated a willingness to respect the judicial process.”

Shelby’s attorney has also spoken out, assuring the public that Shelby has every intention of complying with law enforcement.

Even though Officer Shelby will be charged with manslaughter for killing Crutcher, the fact that so many officers within the past two years have faced criminal charges after on-duty fatal shootings — but ultimately were not held accountable for their actions — does not bode well for the outcome of this case.

Of the 17 officers charged with murder or manslaughter in 2015, no officer was convicted.

How many officers were convicted in 2014? Zero.

In fact, of the 56 police officers who went to trial for on-duty shootings since 2005, only 13 were convicted. The most recent conviction was Culpeper Town officer Daniel Harmon-Wright, who was sentenced to three years for voluntary manslaughter in 2013.

Time will certainly tell whether these odds will continue as we head toward Officer Shelby’s trial seeking justice for Terence Crutcher.



Antwan is an educator, cultural critic, actor, and writer for Wear Your Voice Mag (WYV), where he focuses on the dynamics of class, race, gender, politics, and pop culture. Prior to joining the team at WYV, he was an adjunct professor in the African American Studies Department at Valdosta State University in southern Georgia, where he taught African American Literature. He has traveled the U.S. and U.K. showcasing a fifty-five minute, one-person play titled Whitewash, which focuses on the state of black men in the post-civil rights era. Antwan received his B.A. in English and Literature from California State University, Dominguez Hills, and M.A. in African American Studies from University of California, Los Angeles. He is a Ronald E. McNair Scholar and NAACP theater nominee.

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