Here we go, again. On Wednesday, a jury in Oklahoma found Betty Shelby (a white police officer) not guilty of manslaughter in the shooting death of Terence Crutcher (a black motorist) last year. Is anyone at all surprised? You may remember this case because Crutcher’s car broke down and police were responding to a call of a stalled vehicle when officers, including Shelby, approached him. It’s unclear what kind of information they had about him or his vehicle that would have warranted several officers and a helicopter to be on the scene for what should have been a routine traffic stop but nevertheless the video footage shows officers bum-rushing him while his hands are up.
Police said Crutcher approached the vehicle but failed to listen to commands from officers. Shelby asked Crutcher if the car was his, but only mumbled to himself and didn’t respond, according to an affidavit.
Crutcher was seen walking to
car with his hands up before reaching into the driver’s side window. One of the officers fired his Taser at him. Shelby also fired her gun — striking the father of four in the lung, police said.
There is not clear video footage of when Shelby shot Crutcher so we are not able to see exactly what transpired in those moments. But we do know that even before that, the police were assuming that Crutcher was a “bad dude.” Even the police in the helicopters can be heard saying so.
Shelby’s defense was that she thought he was on drugs. And later a toxicology report proved that he was indeed under the influence of at least two hallucinogenic drugs, which include PCP. One thought here is that perhaps Crutcher, in his altered state, could not communicate with police and that he was actually reaching in the car for his identification. There was no weapon found in the car. Of course, police have no way of knowing this.
But that point seems irrelevant only because of all the things leading up to that moment. White drug abusers are certainly treated with more regard than this. Hell, a white kid who went into a church full of black people in Charleston and shot them not only managed to get taken alive by police afterward, he got taken to Burger King by the police later because he was hungry. So it seems possible here that while Shelby thought Crutcher was on drugs, she also could have figured out a way to take him into custody alive, right? Except that many police also have this problem that seeing black folk out in the world means that they “fear for their lives” which translates into shoot to kill.