Tulsa Attorney Filing Civil Suit In Terence Crutcher Shooting

Monday, September 26th 2016, 2:37 pm
By: Dee Duren

The attorney for a survivor of Terence Crutcher announced Monday that he will be filing a civil suit against the Tulsa Police Department in the man's death.

Dan Smolen represents Frenchel Johnson-Crutcher, the woman he calls Terence Crutcher's widow.

He said in his role as attorney for Crutcher's widow, he will be looking into three main things to investigate in terms of civil violations:

  • Is there evidence police have a practice of approaching African-Americans the same as they approach Caucasians?
  • Did Officer Shelby use excessive force?
  • And did she violate the disability act?

The lawsuit will also look at the Tulsa Police record of arrests of African Americans. Tulsa police were about four times as likely to use force on black people compared to their uses of force against white people, an analysis by KOTV partner The Frontier has found.

The Frontier: Data drop: TPD use of force 4 times higher for blacks than whites

During Monday's news conference, Smolen didn't have a lot to say about the civil violations, but did say they have reason to believe there may be more unreleased police video. And if there isn't, they say TPD may have violated its own procedures.

Smolen is also calling for Tulsa Police to release additional evidence in the shooting death of Terence Crutcher on September 16, 2016.

"We don’t know whether or not TPD is consistent with their policy," he said.

Johnson didn't speak during the conference, but Smolen outlined what he calls possible violations of TPD's mobile video recorder system procedure.

"I think there needs to be some explanation beyond just  there wasn't just a switch number two as to why there isn't video from her dash cam," Smolen said.

He said he wants an explanation of whether Officer Betty Shelby had the ability to trigger the dash cam on her patrol unit with a button on her belt. Smolen wants to know if there is additional video, and if not, why Shelby did not follow protocol for activating the dash cam remotely.

TPD released video from the department's chopper and a backup officer's patrol car, but none from Shelby - the officer who shot and killed Crutcher.

The officer’s attorneys say Shelby's video didn't kick on because she didn't activate her overhead lights. Instead, she turned on her back window caution lights because she thought she was only responding to an abandoned vehicle.

"It is our understanding she had roughly two minutes to activate that switch, and there's a long period of time that existed prior to the helicopter being present," he said.

Smolen said even if Shelby's video recording didn't automatically come on, according to the TPD mobile video recording procedures, she had four other options:

  • Pressing button on the in-car computer.
  • Pressing red record button on the in-car camera.
  • Pressing red button on her microphone.
  • Or bumping her patrol car to activate the camera.

Shelby's attorney, Scott Wood, released a statement saying, "She did not have the ability to remotely activate her dash camera. She was in compliance with the dash camera policy which says you should activate the camera when you are going to take enforcement action or when you have a prisoner. She would have simply cleared the car then called for a tow truck to get it out of the road had Terence Crutcher not appeared on the scene."

Smolen also said he wants the helicopter logs released and called it "odd" that Officer Shelby's husband was in the police helicopter overhead during the shooting.

We reached out to the city attorney but they are not commenting because they haven't gotten a copy of the lawsuit.

Johnson-Crutcher was appointed special administrator of Terence Crutcher's estate on Friday, but his parents have filed with the court to have that designation overturned, saying she never married their son and is disqualified by her criminal history.

Special Coverage: Terence Crutcher Shooting Death

Crutcher's parents, the Rev. Joey and Leanna Crutcher, say in court documents that Johnson-Crutcher appeared before the court Friday without notifying them of her intentions. 

"Ms. Johnson failed to disclose to the court that Terence Crutcher was survived by his parents, that his parents intended to file and pursue a civil action for his wrongful death, and that his parents were already represented by local attorneys.

"Ms. Johnson also failed to disclose to the Court that she is a convicted felon," the court document states, adding that Crutcher's parents have custody of his three minor children. 

The Crutchers also said in their motion to the court the couple never married, by ceremony or common law, and that there is no marriage license.

The Crutchers are asking the court to appointment special administrators of their son's estate.