Judge rules Officer Betty Shelby must stand trial for manslaughter
TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) -- A Tulsa police officer who shot and killed an unarmed man earlier this year will stand trial for manslaughter.
Officer Betty Shelby appeared in court Tuesday for a preliminary hearing. She's charged with first-degree manslaughter for the Sept. 16 shooting of Terence Crutcher.
Shelby encountered Crutcher near 36th and North Peoria while en route to another call. His car was stopped in the middle of the street. When she stopped to check the vehicle, Crutcher came walking up to the SUV.
Shelby has said Crutcher was mumbling incoherently, not following commands and appeared to be on drugs. PCP was later found in his SUV and in his bloodstream.
First on the stand Tuesday was Sgt. Dave Walker, lead homicide detective for the Tulsa Police Department and the chief investigator on the case. Walker testified that Shelby's interviews matched the statements of other officers who were on the scene that day, and he said he believes she feared for her life when she shot Crutcher.
Walker said Shelby and Officer Tyler Turnbough, who arrived shortly before the shooting, both said they were fearful of Crutcher, and when his left arm dropped, moving toward a partially-open window, the officers fired almost simultaneously.
Shelby had her gun drawn, Turnbough a Taser -- a common practice to allow for various levels of force, defense attorney Shannon McMurray said in court.
"We are not trained to wait," said Walker.
Assistant District Attorney Kevin Gray asked if officers were trained to shoot first and ask questions later. Walker said, "No."
McMurray asked if Shelby shot first and asked questions later. Walker said, "No."
Walker's initial report found that the shooting was justified, but an investigator for the Tulsa County District Attorney's Office found that Shelby overreacted, prompting DA Steve Kunzweiler to file the manslaughter charge.
McMurray had planned to argue that Shelby's trial is political, not prosecutorial, and that the charge was filed a day before Walker's report was complete to avoid rioting and appease the public.
After reviewing police video, Judge Martha Carter ruled that Shelby should stand trial. She's due back in court Dec. 15 for arraignment.
A representative for the Crutcher family spoke just after the hearing, saying the are pleased the judge is sending the case to trial.
"I really like what assistant DA Kevin Gray said, that in America we can't shoot first and ask questions later," said Demario Solomon-Simmons, Crutcher family friend and attorney.
Shelby has pleaded not guilty.
Read more about the Crutcher case in our special section.