Political News

Lawyers for slain Tulsa man: Drug discussion a distraction

Posted 10:13 p.m. Tuesday
Updated 10:17 p.m. Tuesday

In this image made from a Friday, Sept. 16, 2016 police video, Terence Crutcher, top, is pursued by police officers as he walk to an SUV in Tulsa, Okla. Crutcher was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead after he was shot by the officer around 8 p.m., Friday, police said. Crutcher had no weapon on him or in his SUV, Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan said Monday, Sept. 19, 2016. (Tulsa Police Department via AP)

— Investigators found the drug PCP in the vehicle of an unarmed black man fatally shot by a white officer, according to Oklahoma police, but attorneys for the slain man's family say a discussion of drugs distracts from questions about the use of deadly force.

Tulsa Sgt. Dave Walker told the Tulsa World on Tuesday that investigators recovered one vial of PCP in Terence Crutcher's SUV, but he declined to say where in the vehicle it was found or whether officers determined if Crutcher used it Friday night. Walker confirmed to The Associated Press that what he told the newspaper was true, but declined further comment.

A spokeswoman for the state medical examiner's office said autopsy and toxicology results for Crutcher are pending, and police said Tuesday the toxicology report could take several weeks.

Attorneys for Crutcher's family said the man's relatives did not know whether drugs were found in his vehicle and, even if they were, that wouldn't justify his fatal shooting.

"Let us not be throwing a red herring, and to say because something was found in the car that was justification to shoot him," said attorney Benjamin Crump, one of the family's lawyers.

Crump compared Crutcher's shooting to Monday's arrest of New York bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami, who police say engaged officers in a shootout.

"He wasn't killed. So why was an unarmed black man who has committed no crime, who only needs a hand, given bullets in his lungs?" Crump said.

Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby fatally shot the 40-year-old on Friday after responding to a report of a stalled vehicle. Sgt. Shane Tuell said Tuesday that Shelby had a stun gun at the time but did not use it. Officer Tyler Turnbough, who is also white, used a stun gun on Crutcher, police said.

Two 911 calls described an SUV that had been abandoned in the middle of the road. One unidentified caller said the driver was acting strangely, adding, "I think he's smoking something."

PCP or phencyclidine, also called angel dust, can cause slurred speech, loss of coordination and a sense of strength or invulnerability, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. At high doses, it can cause hallucinations and paranoia.

Oklahoma prison officials confirmed Tuesday that Crutcher served four years in prison on a drug conviction from 2007 to 2011.

But Damario Solomon-Simmons, another attorney for Crutcher's family, said Shelby and other officers had no way of knowing about Crutcher's background or the potential for drugs in his vehicle when they approached him Friday.

"It's undisputed that the officers on the scene had no idea what may be in Terence's car," Solomon-Simmons said. "At that particular moment that he was shot, he was not a suspect for any crime. Period."

Police Chief Chuck Jordan said Monday that Crutcher had no weapon on him or in his SUV when he was shot. It's not clear from dashcam and aerial footage what led Shelby to draw her gun or what orders officers gave Crutcher.

Shelby's attorney, Scott Wood, said Crutcher was not following the officers' commands and that Shelby was concerned because he kept reaching for his pocket as if he was carrying a weapon.

"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," Wood told the Tulsa World.

But attorneys for Crutcher's family challenged that claim Tuesday, presenting an enlarged photo from the police footage that appeared to show that Crutcher's window was rolled up.

Local and federal investigations are underway to determine whether criminal charges are warranted and whether Crutcher's civil rights were violated.

Hundreds of protesters rallied Tuesday night outside police headquarters in downtown Tulsa calling for Shelby to be fired.

"Police treated Crutcher differently than they would if a white person had been stopped in a similar instance," said Sharon Smith, 60, an African-American resident of the suburb of Broken Arrow.

Organizers urged participants to remain peaceful, and the protesters dispersed before nightfall without any incidents.

Police helicopter footage was among several clips released Monday that show the shooting and aftermath. A man in the helicopter that arrives above the scene as Crutcher walks to the vehicle can be heard saying "time for a Taser" and then: "That looks like a bad dude, too. Probably on something."

Betty Shelby's mother-in-law, Lois Shelby, said the officer is grieving for Crutcher's family and isn't prejudiced. She told the AP in a phone interview Tuesday that Shelby "thought she had to protect her own life" when she shot Crutcher.

"She wouldn't harm anyone. We're all sick. We feel for the (Crutcher) family," Lois Shelby said. "But, you know, we have a family that goes out every day and faces life and death. And when she is being accused of things she didn't do wrong, it's too much, and they don't think about our family."

Betty Shelby declined comment, referring calls to her attorney.

Police video shows Crutcher walking toward his SUV that is stopped in the middle of the road. His hands are up and a female officer is following him. As Crutcher approaches the driver's side of the SUV, more officers arrive and Crutcher appears to lower his hands and place them on the vehicle before the officers surround him.

Crutcher can be seen dropping to the ground. Someone on the police radio says, "I think he may have just been tasered." Then almost immediately, someone can be heard yelling, "Shots fired!" and Crutcher is left lying in the street.

Shelby's attorney, Wood, said Turnbough fired the stun gun at the same time Shelby opened fire because both perceived a threat.

The shooting comes four months after ex-Tulsa County volunteer deputy Robert Bates was sentenced to four years in prison on a second-degree manslaughter conviction in an unarmed black man's 2015 death. Bates said he mistakenly grabbed his gun instead of his Taser. Shelby worked as a Tulsa County sheriff's deputy for four years before joining the Tulsa Police Department in December 2011, officials said. She has been placed on paid leave.

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Associated Press writer Jill Bleed in Little Rock, Arkansas, contributed to this report.

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This story has been corrected to show that the quote from the phone interview is from Lois Shelby, not Betty Shelby.

15 Comments

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  • William Patterson Sep 20, 6:14 p.m.
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    having been assaulted back in the early 70's...bruised and bloodied by a policeman that was not even intelligent enough to speak the English language properly for no reason other than he evidently didn't like my long hair, I have little patience with any one that thinks that just because a person is wearing a uniform it trumps your own common sense and they should be obeyed even when their actions are unlawful.I knew a woman that got out of a ticket by granting sexual favors to a fine public servant of the law....like Billy Jack said "when the police break the law there is no law ...only the fight for survival" our system will sanction her behavior and push us closer to a revolution...i like a good policeman but loathe the bad ones of which there are far too many...she should never have been given a badge...Tony Biancardi nailed it...lets see if she gets away with murder like all the others did

  • Tony Biancardi Sep 20, 5:56 p.m.
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    He was killed because a white person with a badge and a gun had an unreasonable fear of a large black man.

  • Salatheal Hasty Sep 20, 3:50 p.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread


    What commands??? The police officers lawyer is saying that he didn't comply!!! why would he say anything different!!! How does a person with a broken down car become a suspect? They said shots fired "suspect" down...What crime was he suspected of doing? No police don't go around shooting random people but the scared ones end up killing people for no reason!!!

  • Pete Knowles Sep 20, 3:47 p.m.
    user avatar

    Then, Roger Chance, please explain to us why this man is dead. Tell us the circumstances that transpired that justifies the police shooting this unarmed man with his hands up. I'll wait, because this should be good.

  • Salatheal Hasty Sep 20, 3:42 p.m.
    user avatar

    A man with a broken down car is a THREAT??? They had already deemed him a criminal..that's why they said "suspect" down! One fired a taser and she fired her gun at the same time...Then her husband is in the helicopter calling him a "big bad dude"...if you are scared to be a cop please turn your badge and gun in...From what people are saying if my car breaks down and I reach back in my car for something that gives them the right to kill me...

  • William Patterson Sep 20, 3:21 p.m.
    user avatar

    how can anyone blame a black man for not obeying the"commands" of a police officer ....even when they comply they are beaten mercilessly or shot and killed ..the internet is now teeming with such video evidence....this officer "jumped the gun" literally....he was tased AND shot at the same time ....she did not even wait to see if the taser was effective ....he was not a criminal or suspect nor was she a judge or jury even though she decided based on her own fears and prejudices that he was a threat ....might have given her a little more leeway had she been the only one there ....she screwed up and murdered a man in cold blood and she needs to be held accountable for her error in judgement now four black children will grow up without their father ....show me where it says a policeman (many are just criminals with a badge) can murder you if you don't do as they say...if a policeman tells a woman he will tear up the ticket if she gives him oral sex should she do as he commands?

  • Brent Phares Sep 20, 2:43 p.m.
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    Shots fired, one suspect down. What was he suspected of?

  • William James Sep 20, 2:21 p.m.
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    Most of the video being shown has been cut off/edited, but there is dash cam footage from a few news organizations where you can hear and see him being shot. Not following Police instructions is never wise, but its certainly not a legal defense for killing an unarmed, stranded motorist. Also, why did three officers respond to stalled motorist or confront him as a criminal?

  • L.a. Billington Sep 20, 1:35 p.m.
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    Now we have only the officer's versions of the story, since the unarmed victim is dead. They will lie about all of it. Why shouldn't they?
    NJ police can capture alive the terrorist who planted the pressure bombs. They shot him once in the shoulder, AFTER he fired upon officers. Yet this black man's car breaks down and he is gunned down in the street and left to bleed out.

  • Bryan Jeffries Sep 20, 1:26 p.m.
    user avatar

    LEO training has officers confronting citizens like enemy combatants at all times. I guess the best way to survive is to just stay still and quiet.

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