TULSA, Okla. (CN) – The white Tulsa police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black man during a traffic stop last year spoke out for the first time Sunday night, blaming him for causing his own death and denying race was a factor.
A tearful Betty Shelby was interviewed on CBS’ “60 Minutes” about the Sept. 16 shooting of Terence Crutcher, denying that she is a racist. She said she has had a hard time coming to terms with his death and that she never wanted to kill anyone.
“What I based everything on was his actions, his behaviors,” she said. “Race had nothing to do with my decision making.”
Shelby is seen in helicopter and dashboard camera footage exiting her police cruiser near a disabled SUV while Crutcher is shown slowly walking away from her with both of his arms in the air.
Crutcher is shown walking towards the driver side of the SUV and is hidden from view as the police helicopter circles around the passenger side. He then slumps and falls to the ground after being shot. A female voice on the radio screams “shots fired.” No weapons were found on Crutcher or in his car.
Shelby faces a first-degree manslaughter charge and she is awaiting trial.
Her attorneys have publicly stated she was scared, thought Crutcher was on drugs and that he failed to follow commands. A medical examiner later concluded Crutcher had mood-altering drug PCP in his system at the time of his death.
“His hands are just dropped beside him. His chin is resting on his chest and he is standing there motionless,” Shelby said. “And I thought, ‘I wonder if he is on PCP.'”
Shelby said that crossed her mind first because it was an odd “zombie-like” behavior, but that she did not consider him a threat. She admitted Crutcher was not being belligerent or aggressive towards her, but that he was not complying with commands to take his hands out of his pockets. She said she learned in training that people on PCP could turn violent.
“That’s when I get on the radio and say I have a subject that is not showing me his hands,” Shelby said. “And it was at that point that I drew my weapon in the ready position.”
Although Crutcher is shown putting his arms in the air as he walks towards the SUV, Shelby maintains she was fearful that he would reach for a weapon through the driver’s window as he continued to ignore her commands to stop.
“I am thinking he is calculating how he can get to his vehicle to get whatever weapon it is that he is going to get because he did not find it in his pocket,” she said.
Shelby said she did not consider shooting him in the leg first because police are not trained to do that.
“We do not train to be cowboys and to be like what they show on the movies,” she said.
Shelby said she never “wanted to be in that spot” and that Crutcher’s actions dictated hers.
“I have sorrow that this happened, that this man lost his life, but he caused the situation to occur,” she said. “So in the end, he caused his own [death.]”
Crutcher’s twin sister, Tiffany Crutcher, flatly disagreed with Shelby’s explanation. She said the video shows her brother not being aggressive or threatening and that Shelby is saying “everything that she is supposed to say” in her defense.
“What we saw on that video is what my dad always taught us to do if we were pulled over by a police officer,” she told “60 Minutes.” “Put your hands in the air and put your hands on the car. My brother did what my father taught us.”
Tiffany Crutcher blames Shelby for not pausing before shooting her brother, saying there was “no justification whatsoever” for the shooting. She said no one checked on him after he was shot.
“He laid there, they let him lay there like an animal,” she said.