Each day, police officers, firefighters, and first responders put their lives on the line. They run into burning buildings, patrol our roads, and chase down the bad guys without a second thought about their own safety.
These everyday heroes risk their lives in the hopes that their bravery and their sacrifices will make their communities a safer and better place to live. But what happens when our heroes abuse their power and end up doing more harm than good…?
The Abandoned Car
On September 16, 2016, one Oklahoma driver came upon a vehicle that was stopped in the middle of the road. As they got closer, they realized the car wasn’t just stopped, but it had been abandoned by its owner, who they spotted running away from the car.
The Exploding Car
The vehicle’s owner, 40-year-old Terence Tafford Crutcher, could be heard by other drivers screaming that the car was about to explode. And when a nearby driver asked if he needed any help, Terence just repeated that the car was about to explode and ran away as fast as he could…
Only One Explanation
Not only did the father of 4 leave his car stopped over the double yellow lines, which blocked both sides of traffic, but he was acting incredibly erratic and paranoid. The only explanation the drivers nearby could think of was that Terrence must have been on drugs.
Calling The Police
The drivers felt they had no choice but to call the police. “The doors are open. The vehicle is still running. It’s an SUV. It’s like in the middle of the street. It’s blocking traffic,” one caller said. “There was a guy running from it, saying it was going to blow up. But I think he’s smoking something…”
Terence, who had been studying music at Tulsa Community College and was regularly involved with his church, would normally not seem like a threat but because of the bizarre situation, the several police officers raced to the scene and a police helicopter was sent out to keep tabs on the scene from the sky.
Out Of Control
Once at the scene, police officers attempted to get the situation under control but Terence kept reaching into his pockets, refused to show his hands, and walked toward his vehicle after being told to stop moving. “This guy’s still walking and isn’t following commands,” one of the officers in the helicopter commented. “It’s time for a taser, I think. I’ve got a feeling that’s about to happen… That looks like a bad dude, too, could be on something…”
Not Following Orders
Officer Betty Shelby and Officer Tyler Turnbough were on the ground trying to subdue Terence, who refused to follow any of the officers’ repeated orders. According to Officer Shelby, Terence then angled himself toward his car and appeared to start reaching for the car’s window.
In that moment, both Shelby and Turnbough knew they would ultimately have to use force to stop Terence. But as Officer Turnbough pulled out his taser gun and tasered the man, Officer Shelby pulled out her gun and shot him in the chest…
After The Shot
Once the shot was fired, other officers at the scene rushed over and called for an ambulance before checking his pockets for a gun or any other weapons. Approximately 45 seconds after that, an officer knelt down and began administering aid.
No Weapons Found
According to Tulsa police chief Chuck Jordan, officers failed to find any weapons either with Terence or in his car after they searched it. However, in the moment, Officer Shelby thought Terence was on drugs and reaching for a gun in his car, and claims she reacted according to her training…
Terence was then rushed to the hospital but died later that day. Three days later, the Tulsa Police Department released footage of the shooting that was recorded with a police dashcam as well as footage that was recorded from the helicopter overhead.
The officers involved that day were immediately placed on paid administrative leave and the Tulsa Police Department started a criminal investigation. The Oklahoma State Medical Examiner performed an autopsy on Terence and found that he had ‘acute phencyclidine (PCP) intoxication’ when he was shot…
According to the medical examiner, Terence had 96 nanograms per millimeter of PCP in his blood as well as tenocyclidine (TCP), a more potent drug that acts as a psychostimulant and a hallucinogen. However, by that point, the public was outraged that Officer Shelby used lethal force against Terence and demanded that she be held accountable.
Family Speaks Out
“You all want to know who that big, bad dude was?” Terence’s sister said at a press conference. “That big, bad dude was my twin brother. That big, bad dude was a father. That big, bad dude was a son. That big, bad dude was enrolled at Tulsa Community College — just wanting to make us proud. That big, bad dude loved God. That big, bad dude was at church, singing, with all his flaws, every week…”
During the investigation, Shelby was placed on unpaid leave. A little over a week after she fatally shot Terence, Shelby was charged by Tulsa County District Attorney, Steve Kunzweiler, with first-degree manslaughter for unlawfully and unnecessarily shooting the 40-year-old father.
On September 23, Shelby turned herself in at the Tulsa County Jail but was released after posting a $50,000 bond. During the trial, Shelby testified that she was afraid Terence was reaching for a gun. “I fired my gun at Mr. Crutcher because I was fearing for my life,” she said…
Shelby’s defense also explained to the jury that Terence had a conviction on a drug charge and had previous encounters with the police where officers had to use force to get him under control. The District Attorney, on the other hand, argued that Terence was turning and pivoting to put his hands on the car when the shot was fired and that Shelby fired her gun before he even started to move for the car.
The Jury Decides
The jury of eight women and four men reviewed all the evidence and the arguments presented by both sides for about nine hours. Eventually, they all agreed that Shelby was innocent and her first-degree manslaughter charge was dropped…
Life After The Trial
After the trial, the Oklahoma officer requested the case be removed from her record, which was approved by District Judge William LaFortune. “Like any other citizen who is acquitted, Betty Jo Shelby was entitled to have her record sealed and expunged,” Shelby’s attorney, Shannon McMurray, said. Two days after the trial, Shelby also returned to work but later resigned because she felt isolated from the other officers.
‘Got Away With Murder’
Terence’s family, however, were devastated by the verdict. “We felt that Terence, someone who can’t speak for himself, was on trial and she was a victim,” Terence’s twin sister said. “I have four grandchildren that are at home that has lost their daddy. I said I would accept whatever the verdict was, and I’m going to do that. But let it be known that I believe in my heart that Betty Shelby got away with murder,” Terence’s father added.