Betty Shelby, the Tulsa, Oklahoma, police officer who shot and killed Terence Crutcher last week, faces a charge of first-degree manslaughter, Tulsa County District Attorney Stephen Kunzweiler announced Thursday.
“In the matter of the death of Terence Crutcher, I determined that the filing of the felony crime of manslaughter in the first degree against Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby is warranted,” Kunzweiler said.
Per NewsOK, the charge carries a minimum sentence of four years in prison, if Shelby is convicted. Shelby’s attorney said she opened fire because she feared Crutcher might have been reaching for a weapon. Police failed to find a weapon on Crutcher or in the car.
Crutcher’s twin sister, Tiffany Crutcher, said during a news conference Thursday that the family welcomed the opportunity for justice. She implored protestors to remain peaceful.
“The chain breaks here,” Crutcher said. “We’re going to break the chains of injustice. We’re going to break the chains of police brutality.”
She added: “We can change this nation. We can heal this nation.”
Video of the encounter between Tulsa police officers and Terence Crutcher went viral after it was released Monday, as it appeared to conflict with the police department’s claim that Crutcher, a black man, had failed to comply with officers’ demands.
Instead, it showed Crutcher holding his hands above his head as instructed and walking toward his car, which had stalled in the middle of the road.
Family attorney Demario Solomon Simmons called on the city to “immediately” release funding to outfit police officers with body cameras, noting that police video was critical in showing how Terence Crutcher was killed. Simmons also advocated mandatory, annual training for officers against bias, “so we won’t be afraid of one another. So we won’t be so apt to shoot one another.”
“Let Tulsa be a beacon ― an example of what it means to be trustful, to be one city,” Simmons said.
Warning: Some viewers may find the following video disturbing.
Oklahoma law provides several definitions for what qualifies as first-degree murder, including a killing ”perpetrated unnecessarily either while resisting an attempt by the person killed to commit a crime, or after such attempt shall have failed.”
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) asked citizens for patience and peace in a statement released after the officer was charged.
“I pray this decision provides some peace to the Crutcher family and the people of Tulsa,” Fallin said, “but we must remain patient as the case works its way through the justice system, where a jury likely will be asked to decide whether officer Betty Shelby is guilty of the crime. And we must remember that in our justice system, officer Shelby is innocent until proven guilty.
“No matter how you feel about the prosecutors’ decision in this case,” Fallin continued, “I hope Oklahomans will respect the views of your friends and neighbors because we still have to live peacefully together as we try to make sense of the circumstances that led to Mr. Crutcher’s death.”
This article has been updated to include comments from Crutcher’s family and Fallin.