First-degree manslaughter charges were filed against the police officer who fatally shot Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Tulsa County District Attorney announced Thursday. An arrest warrant was issued for Officer Betty Shelby, who is reportedly making arrangements through her lawyer to turn herself in, a local Fox affiliate has reported.
Shelby fired a single shot, killing 40-year-old Crutcher on Sept. 16. Video footage of Shelby's encounter with Crutcher shows him, his hands raised above his head, walking away from Shelby and three other officers called to the scene just before he falls to the ground.
"Officer Shelby, although now charged, is presumed to be innocent until a judge or a jury determines otherwise," Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said in a press conference Thursday when announcing his decision to charge Shelby with manslaughter in the first degree. "I do not know why things happen in this world the way they do," he added. "We need to pray for wisdom and guidance."
Crutcher's family has said was he waiting for help after his SUV broke down in the middle of the road when Shelby, reportedly on her way to an unrelated domestic violence call, confronted him.
Shelby's attorney said the officer suspected Crutcher was under the influence of something and fired on him when he began to reach into his car after refusing to communicate with police. Crutcher was also reportedly shot with a stun gun by a separate officer.
However, Tulsa police confirmed earlier in the week that Crutcher was unarmed and did not have a weapon in his SUV at the time of his death. Some, including Crutcher's family, have argued that enlarged stills of dashcam and aerial footage shows the window of Crutcher's SUV was rolled up, making it impossible that Crutcher could have reached into the vehicle to obtain a weapon.
In Oklahoma, first-degree manslaughter carries a minimum sentence of four years in prison and is defined as — among other things — killing "perpetrated unnecessarily either while resisting an attempt by the person killed to commit a crime, or after such attempt shall have failed," according to the Associated Press.
Officer Shelby joined the Tulsa Police Department in late 2011 after working as a deputy county sheriff for four years. She was reportedly placed on paid administrative leave following the Crutcher's death, which is being investigated by both the state of Oklahoma and the U.S. Department of Justice.