The Oklahoma cop who fatally shot an unarmed black man last week “reacted unreasonably” and became “emotionally involved to the point that she overreacted,” investigators said in an affidavit Thursday.
Betty Jo Shelby, 42, is charged with first-degree manslaughter in the death of Terence Crutcher, a 40-year-old father of four.
Crutcher was shot in the chest as he stood next to his SUV with his hands in the air—a shocking encounter captured on police helicopter footage. The video shows him falling to the ground and blood spreading across his white T-shirt.
If convicted, she faces a minimum of four years behind bars.
The embattled cop previously worked for the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office before joining the police department in 2011. She was assigned to the Gilcrease Division in North Tulsa, which is home to a large African-American population.
A former sheriff’s deputy told The Daily Beast that he worked with Shelby from 2010 to 2011 and “always thought she might have been on the skittish side.”
“She wouldn’t be the first person I’d want backing me on the scene,” said the former officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, adding that he believed “she was somewhat intimidated by the police work.”
“I’m not saying she was a big scaredy cat and ran every time something happened, but she could be overwhelmed pretty quick,” the cop said. “You could almost tell it in her voice when she said, ‘Shots fired’ [into her radio].”
According to a probable cause affidavit reviewed by The Daily Beast, Shelby was on her way to a domestic violence call when she spotted Crutcher on 36th Street North and his vehicle blocking traffic.
She pulled over and asked Crutcher if the vehicle belonged to him and if it broke down, court papers state. “He was mumbling to himself and would not answer any of Officer Shelby’s questions,” the affidavit says.
Crutcher kept jamming his hands in his pockets, refusing Shelby’s orders to show him her hands, the affidavit states.
The man continued walking toward his abandoned vehicle with his hands held up and did not respond to Shelby’s demands to stop. The cop pulled her weapon and trailed him to the SUV, prosecutors say.
As they reached the vehicle’s driver’s side, fellow officer Tyler Turnbough arrived and said he had his Taser ready, the affidavit says.
When Crutcher reached into the driver’s side window, Turnbough fired his Taser and Shelby shot him once in the right lung area, court papers allege. Crutcher was transported to the hospital and pronounced dead.
According to prosecutors, Shelby told Tulsa homicide detective Dave Walker “she was in fear of her life and thought that Mr. Crutcher was going to kill her.”
“When she began following Mr. Crutcher to the vehicle with her duty weapon drawn, she was yelling for him to stop and get on his knees repeatedly,” the document states.
“Officer Shelby reacted unreasonably by escalating the situation from a confrontation with Mr. Crutcher, who was not responding to verbal commands and was walking away from her with his hands held up, becoming emotionally involved to the point that she overreacted,” the affidavit says.
Shelby was not able to see any weapons on Crutcher or any bulges suggesting he had weapons, prosecutors say.
As The Daily Beast previously reported, Shelby claimed she wanted to help Crutcher when she pulled over that night. She believed Crutcher was behaving erratically and on drugs, and that her life was in danger, her attorney Scott Wood said.