TULSA – Several entities sent reactions after Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler announced the decision to charge Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby with first degree manslaughter in the shooting death of Terence Crutcher.
Governor Mary Fallin:
“I pray this decision provides some peace to the Crutcher family and the people of Tulsa, but we must remain patient as the case works its way through the justice system, where a jury likely will be asked to decide whether officer Betty Shelby is guilty of the crime. And we must remember that in our justice system, officer Shelby is innocent until proven guilty. No matter how you feel about the prosecutors’ decision in this case, I hope Oklahomans will respect the views of your friends and neighbors because we still have to live peacefully together as we try to make sense of the circumstances that led to Mr. Crutcher’s death. I want to compliment Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett, Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan and Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler as well as the citizens of Tulsa for keeping peace and order during this difficult time. I continue to ask that all of us keep the Crutcher and Shelby families in our prayers.”
ACLU of Oklahoma:
“The manslaughter charge against Officer Shelby is welcomed and appropriate. We echo the Tulsa County District Attorney’s firm assertion that Officer Shelby is entitled to due process and presumed innocent until proven guilty.We are also heartened to see that, at least in this instance, law enforcement officers are not being held to a lower standard than the citizens they serve. Unfortunately, the due process of law that is rightfully granted to Officer Shelby was not afforded to Terence Crutcher, whose fate was decided in a matter of seconds with a handgun on a Tulsa street. Despite these charges we remain concerned for Tulsa’s communities of color and for Black Americans across this nation. The officers who callously failed to render immediate aid when Terence was shot and bleeding to death and the officer in the helicopter who referred to Terence Crutcher as “one bad dude” are evidence of a dehumanizing culture we see all too often. As we continue to grapple with an epidemic of police brutality and killings that disproportionately affect people of color, we must not assume the conversation and the move towards desperately needed criminal justice and policing reforms ends today.Though welcomed and important, these charges cannot bring back Terence Crutcher nor can they on their own fix the broken relationship between police and communities they too often fail to protect. We commend the swift action of the District Attorney, and the Tulsa Police Department for their cooperation with this investigation, but remain insistent that the larger conversation of racial equality, over-policing of communities of color, and police brutality continue in a productive and meaningful manner. Setting aside for a moment the initial misinformation from the Tulsa Police Department, we believe it is worth noting that the Department’s decisions to release videos of the killing and for top leaders to speak to public concerns stand in stark contrast to recent decisions of some other departments around the nation to withhold information in time of community crisis, with disastrous consequences. Moving forward we encourage the Tulsa Police Department, the District Attorney, and the City of Tulsa to ensure this model of transparency continues to guide their decisions.”
Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus also sent a statement via Sen. Kevin Matthews, D-Tulsa:
“After being involved with prayer groups, private video screenings with the Tulsa Police Department, public protests, and many discussions with our constituents and friends within our districts and across the country, the members of the Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus have come to some very clear conclusions. We are calling for immediate implementation of body cameras with all police officers in Tulsa, Oklahoma City, and other communities that have them. There should be no delay in the utilization of this crucial tool that assures the best opportunity to have transparency and protection for the public and officers doing their jobs as expected. We are pleased that the Tulsa Chief of Police Chuck Jordan was forthright in producing the available video footage immediately. Chief Jordan stated that this was a criminal investigation of homicide and that ‘justice will be served.’ The fact remains that body cameras would have given even more clarification to the actions that took place prior to Terence’s unnecessary death. We also are calling for more aggressive efforts to hire, utilize, and empower African Americans and others which reflect the culture of the African American communities in Tulsa and across our state. Community policing models that reduce the likelihood of unnecessary shooting deaths of citizens and police officers are available and should be in use. We are asking for protests to be peaceful, but emotions and tension continue to rise because of the perception that justice does not work the same when a citizen’s life is lost versus those who serve us. This incident underscores the crucial need for inclusion and healing in our cities and the State of Oklahoma. Justice needs to be swift and decisive, because the world is watching. Tulsa’s commitment to transparency must be matched by a commitment to fundamental changes in how police interact with communities of color. That change must begin with a simple realization that Black lives matter, and that Terence Crutcher was a man, not a target.”