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Video Shows Police Shoot Unarmed Terrence Crutcher While His Hands Are Up

terence-crutcher-betty-shelby-e1474306809546
Left: Officer Betty Shelby; Right: Terence Crutcher

The Tulsa, Oklahoma Police Department, released video this Monday of an encounter during which a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black man who could be seen raising his hands above his head.

The department opened a criminal investigation into the shooting and said the Tulsa County district attorney, Steve Kunzweiler, would review its findings. The federal Justice Department opened a separate civil rights investigation.

During the encounter, which took place around 7:40 p.m. Friday, Terence Crutcher, 40, was shot once and killed by Betty Shelby, a Tulsa police officer since 2011, after the police received reports of an abandoned vehicle blocking a road, the department said.

Video recorded by a police helicopter and a patrol car’s dashboard camera shows Mr. Crutcher raising his hands, walking toward a car and leaning against it. He was then Tasered by one officer, Tyler Turnbough, and fatally shot by Officer Shelby, the department said, though the view from both cameras is obstructed in the moments before those actions.

Tulsa’s police chief, Chuck Jordan, said at a news conference Monday that Mr. Crutcher was unarmed and did not have a weapon in his vehicle. Shane Tuell, a police spokesman, said Officer Shelby gave a statement to homicide detectives on Monday morning. She is on paid administrative leave, the department said.

In an interview, Officer Shelby’s lawyer, Scott Wood, said the officer had thought that Mr. Crutcher had a weapon. Mr. Wood said Mr. Crutcher had acted erratically, refused to comply with several orders, tried to put his hand in his pocket and reached inside his car window before he was shot.

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Chief Jordan said Officer Shelby had encountered Mr. Crutcher and his vehicle while en route to another call and requested backup because she was “not having cooperation” from him. Officer Turnbough and his partner responded to Officer Shelby’s request for backup. It was the dashboard camera in their patrol car that recorded the shooting.

According to that video, when the second police car arrived, Mr. Crutcher had his hands raised and was walking away from Officer Shelby, who walked behind him with her gun pointed at his back. She was soon joined by three more officers. Mr. Crutcher was shot less than 30 seconds after the second car arrived.

The helicopter video shows the same scene from above. “He’s got his hands up there for her now,” one officer aboard the helicopter can be heard saying. “This guy is still walking and following commands.”

“Time for a Taser, I think,” a second officer in the helicopter can be heard saying.

“I got a feeling that’s about to happen,” said the first officer, identifed by Mr. Wood as Officer Shelby’s husband, Dave Shelby.

“That looks like a bad dude, too,” the second officer said. Mr. Crutcher was shot moments later, and the helicopter camera captured footage of him sprawled on the pavement, his shirt stained with blood. A woman’s voice can be heard yelling over the radio, “Shots fired!”

Members of Mr. Crutcher’s family watched both videos on Sunday, the Police Department said. At a separate news conference on Monday, they called for a thorough investigation and urged protesters to remain peaceful.

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Benjamin L. Crump, a lawyer for the family, placed Mr. Crutcher’s death in the context of police shootings of African-Americans across the country and the conviction last year of Daniel Holtzclaw, an Oklahoma City police officer, for sexually assaulting 13 black women while he was on duty.

“This is an issue that is not unique to Tulsa, Oklahoma,” Mr. Crump said. “This is an issue that seems to be an epidemic happening all around America. What are we as an American society going to do about it?”

The Police Department released the video out of a commitment to “full transparency and disclosure,” Officer Tuell, the spokesman, said. The mayor, Dewey F. Bartlett Jr., urged city residents to come together to help Mr. Crutcher’s family grieve and promised a fair investigation.

“This city will be transparent, this city will not cover up, this city will do exactly what is necessary to make sure that all rights are protected and to make sure that all rights shall be done,” Mr. Bartlett said.

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