White Tulsa Police Officer Acquitted in Terence Crutcher Shooting

Closing arguments are to begin on Wednesday in the manslaughter trial of a white Tulsa police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man in an incident caught on video that stoked debate over racial bias in USA policing.

A jury deliberated for nine hours before acquitting Shelby, according to a local television station, KFOR-TV.

The family of Terence Crutcher burst into tears and expressed outrage after the verdict.

The killing of 40-year-old Crutcher was among a spate of officer-involved shootings in recent years that helped galvanize the Black Lives Matter movement and prompted calls for more police accountability. "No Racist Police", the demonstrators chanted.

The shooting added to a national debate about racial bias in the United States police.

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said he respected the jury's decision but that the city still has racial disparities to change.

Crutcher's family called the verdict a disappointment and accused the police department of being "corrupt".

Crutcher's twin sister Tiffany told reporters after the shooting that he was a father who was just trying to make his family proud. "Betty Shelby had the gun. Our thoughts and prayers should be with the Terence Crutcher and Betty Shelby families during this hard time". Tulsa World reports that demonstration then marched to the hotel where they believed Shelby was staying. Police found a vial of PCP in the SUV's door, but no weapons were found.

The 43-year-old officer said during her trial that she had shot Terence Crutcher because she thought he was reaching for a weapon from his vehicle during a routine traffic stop in September 2016. The bullet struck Crutcher's lung.

Shelby told the jury that she was taught during training that if a suspect reaches into an area like a auto, an officer does not let them pull their arm back because they might be holding a gun, the Tulsa World reported from the court room.

"I don't know what was in the mind of that jury, how they could come to that conclusion", he said.

"Is Terence Crutcher's death his fault?" She took the witness stand to tell jurors she had a reasonable fear Mr. Crutcher was reaching for a gun and that she did what she was trained to do. Prosecutors asserted that Crutcher posed no threat to Shelby, nor was he behaving in an aggressive or unhinged manner.

Police later said Mr Crutcher failed to obey commands, and Ms Shelby testified that she had thought he was reaching for something in the vehicle.

"We're not making this a race issue; it is a race issue", said Rodney Goss, pastor of Morning Star Baptist Church in north Tulsa, where a Thursday news conference turned into an impromptu rally, with dozens of cheering and praying residents sitting in the pews.

  • Larry Hoffman