Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024
Courthouse News Service
Tuesday, February 27, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Tulsa Cop Pleads Not Guilty to Manslaughter

TULSA, Okla. (CN) - A white Tulsa police officer pleaded not guilty Friday to a first-degree manslaughter charge for the shooting death of unarmed black motorist Terence Crutcher.

Betty Shelby, 42, wore a white blouse and dark pants as she was escorted into the courtroom by sheriff's deputies. Her plea was entered by Tulsa attorney Shannon McMurray. Shelby's preliminary hearing is scheduled for Nov. 29.

Shelby was recorded in helicopter and dashboard camera footage exiting her police cruiser near a disabled SUV on Sept. 16. Crutcher, a black man, is shown slowly walking away from her with both of his arms in the air.

As Crutcher approaches the driver side of his vehicle, he is hidden from view as the helicopter circles around the passenger side. He then slumps, falls to the ground and is covered in blood after being shot. A female voice is heard on the radio screaming "shots fired."

Shelby's defense team has publicly stated she was very scared, thought Crutcher was on drugs and that he did not follow commands. Shelby says she pulled the trigger after she feared he was reaching for a weapon in the driver's window.

Crutcher's family has disputed this account, displaying photos from the helicopter video showing the window was closed. No weapons were found on Crutcher or in his car.

His death and the release of the police video resulted in several days of angry but peaceful demonstrations in Tulsa.

Shelby turned herself in shortly after she was charged on Sept. 22 and freed on a $50,000 bond.

An investigator for Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler believes Shelby "reacted unreasonably by escalating the situation from a confrontation" to "becoming emotionally involved to the point that she overreacted" when shooting him, according to an affidavit.

Several members of Crutcher's family were in the courtroom to hear Shelby's plea. The family's attorney, Damario Solomon-Simmons with Riggs Abney in Tulsa, told reporters he was expecting the not-guilty plea and that it "was part of the process."

He declined to comment on a question about perceived special treatment Shelby may be receiving. He said the family will be at all subsequent hearing in the case.

"The family just buried their son on Monday, so they are still processing and grieving," Solomon-Simmons said.

Follow @davejourno
Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.