The Oklahoma officer charged with manslaughter in the fatal shooting of Terence Crutcher last year is finally speaking out, saying Crutcher was responsible for the fatal incident that unfolded that day.
In a recent interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Officer Betty Jo Shelby said she used lethal force out of fear the 40-year-old Black man was reaching inside his SUV for a gun. Shelby contended Crutcher’s race had nothing to do with her decision to pull the trigger, however.
“I’m feeling that his intent is to do me harm and I keep thinking, ‘Don’t do this. Please don’t do this. Don’t make this happen,’ ” Shelby told correspondent Bill Whitaker in her very first interview since the Sept. 16 shooting, which aired Sunday, April 2.
The officer recalled the moment she saw Crutcher reach inside his vehicle, which had stalled in the middle of a busy roadway. Shelby said the man’s attempt to reach in his car would’ve been a clear indicator to any officer that he might be reaching for a weapon.
“I say with a louder, more intense voice, ‘Stop. Stop! Stop!’ And he didn’t,” she said. “And that’s when I took aim [and shot him].”
“I have sorrow that this happened, that this man lost his life, but he caused the situation to occur,” Shelby added. “So, in the end, he caused his own [death].”
Shelby said she remembers the moment she pulled the trigger, as she watched Crutcher stop and then slowly fall to the ground. No weapon was ever recovered on Crutcher’s person nor in his car.
The Oklahoma man’s death sparked nationwide protests, as hundreds of frustrated citizens took to the streets to voice anger over the string of Black men (and women) killed by police. Baton Rouge man Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, a beloved school cafeteria supervisor in Falcon Heights, Mo., were both gunned down by law enforcement in the months before Crutcher’s death.
Shelby has since pleaded not guilty to first-degree manslaughter and is set to appear for trial May 8, the Associated Press reported. Prosecutors argued the officer overreacted during her encounter with Crutcher, pointing out the fact that he was unarmed, noncombative and obeyed her orders to raise his hands. Footage of the shooting, captured from both a helicopter and police dashcam, showed Crutcher walking away from Shelby with his hands in the air.
During her interview, Shelby told Whitaker she feels she has been mistreated and painted as the “enemy” since the shooting.
“My situation was no different than … a lynch mob coming after me,” she said. “I never wanted to kill anyone. I saw a threat and I used the force I felt necessary to stop a threat.”
Crutcher’s twin sister, Tiffany, who also spoke with “60 Minutes,” contended her brother did obey the officer’s commands, yet he still lost his life.
“I saw Trayvon Martin,” Tiffany Crutcher said. “I saw Mike Brown. I saw Philando Castile. You know, I saw Tamir Rice. But, never in a thousand years would my family … would we have thought that we would be on their side of it. And my brother now, according to social media, is another hashtag.
“My brother’s dead because she didn’t pause,” she continued. “There was absolutely no justification whatsoever, with all the backup, for Officer Shelby to pull that trigger. No justification whatsoever.”
Crutcher said she’s satisfied with the manslaughter charge filed against the Oklahoma officer.