Local sheriff says Tulsa County officials made rapid decision in error in Shelby case
ROGERS COUNTY, Okla. (KTUL) -- Law enforcement in a neighboring county is voicing support for Officer Betty Shelby days before she goes to trial for manslaughter.
Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton wrote Thursday in a lengthy letter posted to the office's Facebook page that convicting Shelby would be a "knock-out punch," impeding officers' ability to protect the public.
Shelby, a Tulsa police officer, is charged with first-degree manslaughter for the September 2016 shooting death of Terence Crutcher. He was unarmed when Shelby encountered him in the middle of a north Tulsa street. His family says Crutcher was having car trouble, but Shelby has maintained he was behaving erratically and was non-compliant, though police helicopter video shows him walking with his arms raised.
Shelby has said she feared for her life when she shot Crutcher and accused city leaders of moving too fast to charge her in an effort to avoid unrest in the community. Her trial begins May 8.
In Walton's letter, the 36-year veteran of law enforcement writes that Shelby went to work that day to serve and protect the citizens of Tulsa and found herself facing a situation that required a split-second decision, resulting in elected officials and local leaders making a rapid decision in error.
"They made efforts to explain the facts in a way that specifically left out anything supportive of Betty Shelby," writes Walton. "They made an attempt to respond to their critics and promised justice would be served."
Walton writes that this case has far-reaching implications, potentially making officers hesitate in dangerous situations and affecting the lives of law enforcement everywhere.
"My prayer is that justice will somehow come out of this mess and law enforcement officers will be left with their ability to protect their communities," writes Walton. "My prayer is that officers defending themselves or saving someone else will not have to consider the possibility of going to prison for doing what is asked of them."