Betty Shelby Describes Encounter With Terence Crutcher
TULSA, Oklahoma - Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby was questioned extensively by the prosecution and defense as she took the stand in her own defense Monday, May 15. She remained calm throughout her testimony, addressing many of her remarks to the jury.
Shelby testified about her experience and qualifications as a police officer during the first half of the testimony. After a break for lunch, she retold the story of her meeting with Terence Crutcher that ended in his death. She is charged with manslaughter for shooting the unarmed man.
At the end, Shelby said Terence Crutcher is responsible for his own death. She said she was in control of herself, and he was in control of his actions.
Shelby said she did everything she could to stop it and that she followed her training as a police officer during the encounter.
Shelby encountered Crutcher when his vehicle was left running in the road September 16, 2016. She said she activated her back lights when she saw the running, abandoned vehicle blocking traffic, but did not activate her dash cam.
Shelby said she scanned his vehicle for people, but did not open doors, search it, or look for weapons.
She described her first contact with him, saying he was uncommunicative when she asked if it was his SUV. Crutcher mumbled and put his hands in his pockets, she said. When she asked him to take them out, he put his hands straight up in the air.
Crutcher was sweating and the officer said she could smell chemicals she associates with PCP. She also felt he displayed signs of being under the influence which put her on heightened alert.
She said it is her experience that people on that drug have a cycle of behavior where they can be calm at one moment and aggressive the next.
Shelby said she called for assistance when he kept putting his hands in his pockets instead of keeping them in the air as she instructed. He put his hands in the air at some points but then refused commands to get on his knees and continued to walk back to his SUV.
Shelby told her attorney that his lack of communication and his actions gave her to believe that he either intended to do her harm or try to escape.
Shelby said she pulled her gun after Crutcher kept putting his hands in his pockets because she suspected he had a gun in them. She said she has encountered people before that she suspected had a gun in a pocket or waistband, and she had been correct in those instances.
Shelby said she did not pull her Taser because in their use of force continuum, you do not pull a Taser if you suspect they have a gun. Shelby said Crutcher looked at her, then back at SUV several times. She took an arrest stance, thinking he would be arrested.
She believed Crutcher was looking for a gun in his pockets then calculating where her position was. Then she thought he realized his gun was in his SUV.
Shelby said Crutcher started to look past her, over her head when she heard sirens. Shelby said her thought was that he was going to his vehicle to get a gun.
The officer said that although she told Crutcher several times to stop, he kept walking with his hands in the air. Shelby said his arms began dropping, he looked at her, then reached into vehicle. She says she fired one shot.
Shelby said she was so focused on Crutcher, she did not hear backup officer arrive or hear him tell her he had a Taser. Shelby said they are not trained to shoot a hand or leg, but the largest part of the body visible - the center mass or head, if that's all you can see.
Shelby said officers are only trained to shoot as many times as it takes to stop the threat, so she fired once, and he stopped moving his arm. Shelby said not trained to wait to see what comes out of the window, because it could be too late to react.
Shelby said after the shooting, she saw the backup officer and told him she shot Crutcher, called it in on radio, and they backed away from the scene. She testified that she had a lot of adrenaline going after the shooting and was amazed it had just happened because she felt she had done all she could to keep it from happening.
She said she offered, as an emergency medical technician, to get her medical bag and help with the injured man but was told no - that another officer was getting her bag.
Shelby then went on to describe being interviewed about the experience, giving her statement three days later in a police interrogation room. She said she got upset during her police interview because she was telling the story of what happened and a man died.
The officer said her actions were consistent with police training, that she was in charged of herself that night and Terence Crutcher was in charge of his actions.
She said it is hard to control a situation when the subject won't talk or comply with instructions.
The prosecution then questioned Shelby about her testimony and the night Terence Crutcher died. He asked if she'd ever told anyone about Crutcher smelling like PCP, and she said yes. She agreed, however, that she had not said it in police interview and it was important. She also said it was weeks later we she found out there was PCP found in the vehicle because she went on a social media and news blackout.
She testified that she'd said Crutcher could have been high or had mental issues in her police interview because people who have mental issues can also use drugs.
The prosecution asked why she didn't push the button on her uniform that would have activated her dash cam during the encounter with Crutcher. She said she tried but it failed to work. DA asked Shelby if she ever told anyone she tried to activate her dash cam before that day. She said yes.
Also in questioning by the prosecution, Shelby acknowledged she'd made other DUI stops without shooting anyone but said this was a different set of circumstances. When asked why she didn't Tase him, she said you don't pull a Taser on a gun, you pull a gun on a gun.
She said she had to make decisions on what she saw or knew at the moment, and she believed he had a gun. Scott Gray, the attorney, said she had a guess Crutcher had a gun and asked if she was trained not to kill someone without evidence they needed to be killed.
Shelby said she was trained to use the right force to handle the threat. The DA asked why,when Crutcher had his hands up, walking away, she didn't Tase him. She said there wasn't time. She only fired when he reached into window.
Shelby testified that Crutcher's death was his fault, that she did everything to stop it from happening, and the DA said: except pull a Taser.
Shelby said her training didn't allow for a Taser at that point.
He said even though the other officer also felt threatened, she was the only one who fired a gun.
She said that was correct.