Nation asking questions after latest killing by police officer
Tulsa police officer shot 40-year-old Terence Crutcher on Friday
TULSA, Okla. – Four days after a 40-year-old man was shot by a Tulsa police responding to a 911 call about an SUV broken down on the highway, the U.S. Justice Department announced an investigation into the nation's latest killing of an unarmed black man by an officer.
With a protest planned for Friday over the death of Terence Crutcher, the police chief and U.S. attorney promised a thorough investigation and that justice will be served.
The shooting by Officer Betty Shelby, who pulled her gun and called for backup, was caught on camera from two angles -- a police helicopter and a cruiser's dash camera. Crutcher was seen with his hands up and walking toward his SUV when Selby fires one shot, killing the man.
The videos are fueling mounting criticism online about the case. Crutcher's sister has demanded that prosecutors immediately press charges against Shelby.
Shelby, who is white, was headed to a domestic violence call when she arrived first at the scene of Crutcher's stalled vehicle. Shelby told the dispatcher that "she's not having cooperation" from Crutcher, according to Chief Chuck Jordan at a Monday news conference. The police chief declined to offer more information regarding the lack of cooperation Shelby faced.
By the time Crutcher raised his hands, Tulsa police officers were also flying above the scene in a helicopter, capturing the incident from an on-board camera. Footage shows Crutcher walking toward his SUV in the middle of the road, hands raised, followed closely by Shelby and three other officers. They surround Crutcher, who continued to walk back to his car, where he appeared to place his hands toward the vehicle.
Circling above the scene, one police officer in the helicopter can be heard referring to Crutcher as a "bad dude," according to audio from police footage.
Scott Wood, an attorney representing Shelby, said Shelby thought Crutcher was retrieving a weapon from his car when she opened fire. She had yelled repeatedly that he should get down and stop walking, but Crutcher kept going, placing his hands in his pockets, where she also feared there could be a weapon, Wood said.
The police chief said Crutcher did not have a gun and there wasn’t one found in his vehicle.
News4Jax crime analyst Gil Smith looked at the footage and said police may have created an atmosphere of tension where none was needed.
"The one person in the air unit said, 'He looks like a bad dude,' but (Crutcher) had not committed anything and he wasn’t doing anything at the time he made that comment," Smith said. "Now at (the) point his hand comes down and it looks like it’s at his pants, we can’t tell what’s going on. Are they telling him to keep his hands up, to get on the ground? We just don’t know."
Shelby is now on paid administrative leave, pending the outcome of a criminal investigation. The officer joined the police force in 2011 and had worked for the county sheriff's department for four years before that, according to her attorney, who described her record as a clean one.
Three other officers at the scene didn't fire, although one deployed his Taser.
Authorities refused to immediately answer additional questions due to the ongoing investigation.
Outside the Tulsa County Courthouse, approximately two dozen protesters held signs and photos of Crutcher, shouting chants such as "hands up, don't shoot!" As they walked around downtown Tulsa, they demanded further transparency as well as improved training for local police.
Pastor Mario Johnson, who said he watched the dashcam video before it was made public, believes Crutcher did not deserve to die.
"Him having his hands up, walking toward his car, he was walking away from the officers. He wasn't posing a threat in any way," Johnson said.
According to a Crutcher family attorney, Terence was just "having some difficulty with his vehicle and that's it."
At a news conference Monday, Tiffany Crutcher said it was clear to her that Terence died because of a Tulsa Police officer's "negligence and incompetency and insensitivity."
Now, she said, charges should be pressed in order to ensure justice is served. According to his sister, that's the least that should happen given Crutcher won't be able to make his family proud, like he hoped to do.
"And because he was a big bad dude," she said referring back to the police helicopter tape, "he'll never get that chance."
Jack Henderson, a Tulsa council member, called for Tulsa "to remain a strong city, a together city" free of the violence and conflict seen in other cities across the US.
"We've already got two families' lives who will be affected forever," Henderson said. "We don't need some more lives to be changed this way."
CNN contributed material to this article.
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