The police officer who shot and killed 40-year-old Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma late last week is being charged with first degree manslaughter, announced Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler on Thursday afternoon.
The officer, Betty Shelby, was caught on video shooting at Crutcher, who was black and unarmed, while he had his arms raised. The Tulsa World quotes the charging documents as saying Shelby “reacted unreasonably by escalating the situation from a confrontation with Mr. Crutcher, who was not responding to verbal commands and was walking away from her with his hands held up, becoming emotionally involved to the point that she over reacted.”
The World says Shelby claimed she was in fear for her life when she fired her gun because Crutcher was not responding to her commands.
Criminal charges for police officers who kill in the line of duty seem to be becoming more common, as prosecutors are coming under increased pressure to hold law enforcement agents accountable in questionable cases. As the Washington Post reported, the decade spanning 2005 to 2014 saw an average of about five officers charged per year in fatal shootings. Last year alone there were 18 officers charged. In 2016 so far, there have been seven.
The fact that Crutcher’s death was caught on video made it more likely that Shelby would face charges. It was also just extremely difficult to imagine a plausible justification for her decision to shoot; even Donald Trump, who has been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, publicly condemned it, saying that people who “choke” while on duty should not be police officers.