Tulsa officer opened fire in ‘heat of passion’
An Oklahoma police officer has been charged with first-degree manslaughter “in the heat of passion” over the fatal shooting of a black motorist. Tulsa officer Betty Shelby was booked into the county jail early on Friday and released minutes later on bail.
Prosecutors say she “reacted unreasonably” when she killed 40-year-old Terence Crutcher on September 16. North Carolina police, meanwhile, are under mounting pressure to release video from another fatal shooting.
Tulsa has been spared the unrest seen in the city of Charlotte this week after a black policeman shot a black citizen. The Tulsa County affidavit, filed with the charge against Shelby, accuses her of “escalating the situation from a confrontation with Mr Crutcher”.
Crutcher died from “a gunshot wound of chest” and his death was ruled a homicide, according to the Oklahoma State Medical Examiner’s Office. Shelby is charged with “becoming emotionally involved to the point that she over reacted”, according to Thursday’s court document.
Oklahoma law defines “heat of passion” in manslaughter cases as a strong emotion “that would naturally affect the ability to reason and render the mind incapable of cool reflection”. If convicted, she faces a minimum of four years in prison.
Officer Shelby posted a $50,000 (£38,000) bond and was released at 01:31 (05:31 GMT) on Friday, minutes after arriving for a booking photo, according to jail records. The affidavit says she told homicide investigators “she was in fear for her life and thought Mr Crutcher was going to kill her”.
“When she began following Mr Crutcher to the vehicle with her duty weapon drawn, she was yelling for him to stop and get on his knees repeatedly,” it says.
The affidavit says Crutcher was not responding to Shelby’s verbal commands and was walking away from her with his hands held up. Prosecutors say Shelby either killed the father-of-four impulsively in a fit of anger, or that she wrongly killed him as she sought to detain him. Police acknowledge that Crutcher did not have a gun on him or in his vehicle.
The affidavit also indicates that Shelby “cleared the driver’s side front” of Crutcher’s vehicle before she began interacting with him.