TULSA, Okla. (CN) – A former Oklahoma cop acquitted in the shooting death of an unarmed black motorist defied protesters Tuesday night, going through with teaching a class to sheriff’s deputies on how to handle the aftermath of police-involved shootings.
Former Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby, now a sheriff’s deputy in nearby Rogers County, taught a four-hour class entitled “Surviving the Aftermath of a Critical Incident” to Tulsa County deputies. Hours earlier, she said she would talk “about the challenges that I face[d] after my critical incident, the challenges that my husband and I were not prepared for,” alluding to the legal and financial stresses she experienced in the racially charged aftermath of the shooting.
“When I was told that I would possibly never be in law enforcement again, I needed to find a purpose,” she told Good Morning America. “So I made a commitment to help my brothers and sisters.”
Shelby said she has been teaching the class since last October, and only now are people noticing. She is not being paid for the class.
“I had to physically deal with leaving my home unexpectedly due to threats,” she said. “I had to come up with a solution as to how to financially survive because I was put on administrative leave.”
Shelby advised the deputies on how to deal with the “Ferguson effect,” alluding to the shooting of Michael Brown in Missouri in 2014.
“Officers are scared of the media tormenting them, they are scared of activists groups tormenting them,” she said.
Shelby was acquitted by a Tulsa County jury of first-degree manslaughter in May 2017 for killing Terence Crutcher eight months earlier. She had faced up to life in state prison.
Police dashboard and helicopter video showed Crutcher refusing to follow commands and walking towards his disabled SUV in the middle of a street. He is shown with both arms in the air before he was shot. Shelby steadfastly blamed Crutcher for the shooting, saying she fired out of fear he was reaching for a weapon inside of the car. No weapon was found on Crutcher or in the car. A medical examiner later determined he had phencyclidine – also called PCP or “angel dust” – in his system when he died.
Defense attorneys elicited groans from the gallery during trial when they implied a screwdriver found on the center console of the car could be considered a weapon.
In an unprecedented move, the jury foreperson entered a letter into the court record days after the acquittal that stated in spite of Shelby being found not guilty, the jury found her not “blameless” in the death and that she had “other options available to subdue” Crutcher other than deadly force.
Shelby has since been sued by the administrator of Crutcher’s estate in federal court, claiming she subjected Crutcher to excessive force and deprived him of his equal protection rights.
Dozens of protesters convened at the Tulsa County Courthouse on Monday when word of Shelby’s class spread, imploring the county to “get another teacher” for the course.
“I remember [when] she said, ‘I would rather be tried by 12 than carried by six,’ and Terence Crutcher didn’t get an opportunity to get that statement.” Oklahoma State Representative Regina Goodwin, D-Tulsa, said, as reported by the Tulsa World newspaper. “Folks are talking about there’s a scab on the wound. There’s no scab here because there’s been no healing.”
Goodwin said Shelby “created the incident” and she “gets to skip to the head of the class after she failed the test and she gets to become the teacher.”
When asked what she would say to Crutcher’s family, Shelby said she wanted to “start healing.”
“Let’s take the steps to heal, and take a step forward in the right direction,” she said. “Not only do we heal ourselves but our community starts healing.”
Crutcher’s twin sister, Dr. Tiffany Crutcher, was not impressed. She told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that Shelby has yet to reach out to the family to apologize. She said the news of Shelby teaching the class is “insulting and has deepened the divide in our community.”
The Rev. Chris Moore with Fellowship Congregational Church told fellow protestors that “truth and reconciliation” have yet to take place. He said it was “tone-deaf” to have Shelby teach the class.
“If we are really serious about healing wounds, if that is more than just a marketing campaign, then we best get serious about the business of true reconciliation,” he said.
Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton said the class is “not about opening wounds.”
“It’s about Betty Shelby teaching something that opens law enforcement’s eyes,” he told Tulsa World. “If this was taught to the community, I think it would open [their] eyes to what law enforcement has to endure.”