A 40-year-old black man was fatally shot by a police officer while his hands were raised in the air, according to a local pastor who reviewed the surveillance footage.
Terence Crutcher was first tasered by Tulsa officer Tyler Turnbough and then shot once by officer Betty Shelby before he died in the hospital on Friday, police spokesperson Jeanne MacKenzie said.
According to the police, Crutcher approached the officers after his SUV broke down on the road, but refused commands to raise his hands and reached inside the vehicle.
But Rodney Goss, a pastor at the Morning Star Baptist Church who viewed footage from two dashboard cameras and a police helicopter with Crutcher’s family, reported a different version of events, Tulsa World reported.
He said Crutcher, who had his hands in the air, was seeking help, but was Tasered and shot simultaneously, even though he never reached inside the vehicle or did anything that would have ‘been considered a threat toward the officer’.
Goss, who was appalled by the footage, said it was ‘a couple minutes’ before either of the officers approached Crutcher and checked for a pulse.
‘It was not apparent at any angle from any point that he lunged, came toward, aggressively attacked, or made any sudden movements that would have been considered a threat or life-threatening toward the officer,’ Goss told Tulsa World.
He added: ‘His hands were in the air from all views.’
Police Chief Chuck Jordan said Monday that officers found no weapon on Crutcher or inside his vehicle. He made his comments as police prepared to release dashcam footage of the incident.
Crutcher’s twin sister, Tiffany Crutcher, told reporters Saturday that the family is heartbroken.
‘We just want answers, we want to know what happened, there’s a lot of speculation, but there is one thing, one fact that I do know is that my brother was unarmed,” she said. ‘I’m just devastated.’
She said her brother had left a class at Tulsa Community College when his SUV stalled on East 36th Street North at around 8pm.
An attorney for the Crutcher family, Damario Solomon-Simmons told reporters Saturday that Crutcher was in the area because his car stalled and officers saw him while on an unrelated call and approached.
‘From that point, I do not know what occurred. We have no idea, and that’s what is so difficult for us and the family,’ Solomon-Simmons said. ‘That’s our job, to try to get answers for this family as they’re mourning.’
Jeanne MacKenzie, the Tulsa police spokesperson, said an officer responding to another call saw the vehicle in the middle of the road and called for backup, and the two officers were walking toward the SUV when Crutcher approached them from the side of the road.
‘He refused to follow commands given by the officers,’ MacKenzie said. ‘They continued to talk to him, he continued not to listen and follow any commands.’
Officer Shelby, who fired the fatal shot, has been placed on routine paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
The results of the probe will be sent to Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler, who will determine whether the shooting was justified.
‘It’s obviously a very high-profile matter,’ Kunzweiler said Sunday, while declining to comment about the Crutcher case.
Tulsa Police Sergeant Shane Tuell said they allowed community leaders to view the footage because he didn’t want people to be ‘blindsided’ by it.
‘We wanted to be able to have that intimate time with them, with their attorney, to see if they had any questions or concerns,’ he said. ‘With something of this magnitude, we’re trying an approach that we believe is necessary to further that transparency.’
Online court records show Terrence Crutcher of Tulsa with the same date of birth as the man who was killed pleaded no contest in 1996 to carrying a concealed weapon and resisting an officer and was given a six-month suspended sentence.
His only other court records were for traffic violations, the most recent occurring in 2005.