Ex-Tulsa Cop’s Manslaughter Case Goes to Jury

In this Sept. 16, 2016, image made from video provided by police, Terence Crutcher, left, with his arms held up, is pursued by police officers as he walks next to his stalled SUV moments before he was shot and killed by one of the officers in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Police Officer Betty Jo Shelby’s manslaughter trial in the Crutcher shooting began on May 8. A judge has ruled that a jury can see aerial footage that shows Shelby fatally shooting Crutcher. Shelby has pleaded not guilty. (Tulsa Police Department via AP, File)

TULSA, Okla. (CN) – Jurors began deliberating the fate of Betty Shelby on Wednesday after closing arguments on the eighth day of the former Tulsa police officer’s racially charged manslaughter trial.

Shelby, 43, faces up to life in state prison if convicted of first-degree manslaughter. The white officer shot and killed an unarmed black motorist, Terence Crutcher, 40, in September last year as he refused to follow her commands and walked toward his disabled SUV in the middle of a street.

Police dashboard and helicopter video show Crutcher walking away from Shelby and her police cruiser with both arms in the air before he was shot. Shelby has insisted she did so out of fear he was reaching for a weapon inside the car. No weapon was found on Crutcher or in the car.

Shelby has repeatedly blamed Crutcher for causing his own death and testified Monday she has “no regrets” about what happened.

Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler asked jurors Wednesday to consider why responding police officers told Shelby to “not to say a word” and to holster her weapon when they arrived at the scene.

Kunzweiler argued they did so because the officers immediately knew it was a bad shooting, CBS affiliate KOTV reported. He said that he should be held accountable if the prosecution failed to prove Shelby fired in the heat of passion.

Shelby’s attorney, Shannon McMurray of Tulsa, said Shelby’s decision to shoot was not a guess, that it was complete reliance on her training. She implied sexism played a role in prosecutors portraying Shelby as emotional and out of control when she was upset with flunking a quiz for her certification as a drug-recognition expert.

“If a man had raised his voice, would he have had a meltdown?” McMurray asked. “I am offended.”

In this Dec. 15, 2016, file photo, Betty Shelby leaves the Tulsa County Courthouse where she is charged with manslaughter for the shooting of Terence Crutcher, 40, an unarmed black man. (Mike Simons/Tulsa World via AP, File)

McMurray also questioned the prosecution playing a video of an emotional Shelby providing her statement to police after the shooting, saying all it proves is how much she cares.

In a testy exchange while testifying in her own defense Monday, prosecutors asked Shelby why she did not share her suspicions that Crutcher was on PCP, or angel dust, with investigators when she gave her statement. She had said she could smell the drug on Crutcher before shooting him. Police found a vial of PCP in Crutcher’s car.

Hours after the defense rested its case on Tuesday, the Crutcher family and supporters blasted Shelby’s lawyers for going after their relative.

Family friend Nehemiah Frank said the attorneys “are demonizing this innocent man who has died.”

Shelby’s attorneys called police officers to testify who described past run-ins with an allegedly noncompliant Crutcher.

Dr. Rodney Goss with Morning Star Baptist Church disagreed with how the victim has been made to be the villain.

“It appears to me that opposed to Betty Shelby being on trial, it seems that Terence Crutcher is on trial by bringing up every flaw, every fault,” he said. “Everything that may have happened in his past that may have a negative connotation has been magnified in this trial and everyone seems to be talking about everything except for the fact that he was murdered.”

In this Sept. 24, 2016, file photo, a man holds a copy of the program for the funeral of Terence Crutcher during services to honor him in Tulsa, Okla., Crutcher, 40, was fatally shot on Sept. 16 by Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby. Shelby’s manslaughter trial began on May 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki File)

McMurray later told reporters she is “not going to dignify” the Crutcher family’s statements with a comment.

Frank also criticized the Tulsa Fraternal Order of Police, which filed an ethics complaint with the Oklahoma Bar Association against Kunzweiler for allegedly charging Shelby too quickly due to public and political pressure.

He criticized postings the group made on social medial about dealing with someone high on PCP and the quick decisions police must make before killing someone.

“They should not be taking sides,” Frank said. “It seems like the FOP has taken Betty’s side. They are such a big institution and they should not be in the middle of this, they should not be trying to sway public opinion.”

Jared Lindsey, the police union’s board of directors chairman, denied trying to “inflame the situation” and said the FOP is trying to educate the public on police protocol.

“Very soon, we will have a verdict in this case and the hope for everyone is we will find peace with whatever decision is made,” he said in a statement Wednesday.

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