TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A jury on Wednesday acquitted a white Oklahoma police officer who says she fired out of fear last year when she killed an unarmed black man with his hands held above his head.
The family of Terence Crutcher burst into tears and expressed outrage after jurors found Tulsa officer Betty Jo Shelby not guilty of first-degree manslaughter in the Sept. 16 shooting. About 100 demonstrators later gathered outside the courthouse and some briefly blocked a main street.
“Let it be known that I believe in my heart that Betty Shelby got away with murder,” Crutcher’s father, Rev. Joey Crutcher, said after the verdict was announced.
A lawyer for Shelby said the officer was “elated” that the jury found her not guilty.
“She’s ready to get back to her life,” Defense Attorney Shannon McMurray said.
Shelby looked stone-faced when the verdict was read, but Crutcher’s family was quickly ushered out of the courtroom sobbing and wailing.
At least four of the 12 jurors were crying as they left the courtroom and they did not look at either the family of Crutcher or Shelby. The jury comprised eight women and four men and included three African-Americans.
Shelby testified that she fired her weapon out of fear because she said Crutcher didn’t obey her commands to lie on the ground and appeared to reach inside his SUV for what she thought was a gun. Crutcher was unarmed.
Prosecutors told jurors that Shelby overreacted. They noted Crutcher had his hands in the air and wasn’t combative — part of which was confirmed by police video taken from a dashboard camera and helicopter that showed Crutcher walking away from Shelby, hands held above his head.
Shelby’s attorneys argued that in the two minutes before cameras began recording the encounter, Shelby repeatedly ordered Crutcher to stop walking away from her and get on the ground.
Shelby also said she feared Crutcher was under the influence of PCP, a powerful hallucinogenic known as Angel Dust that makes users erratic, unpredictable…