Tulsa, Oklahoma September 17, 2016 – Police shot an unarmed black man, Terence Crutcher, at close range after he walked slowly, with his hands up, to his vehicle. His death is the latest in a series of unjustified police-involved murders, resulting from deep systemic problems that continue to go unaddressed at the peril of black men, women, and even children, across the nation.
Mr. Crutcher, a father of four, was on his way home from attending classes at a local community college when his SUV broke down on the side of the road. Officer Betty Shelby arrived at the scene after police reportedly received reports of an abandoned vehicle blocking a road. Video recorded by a police helicopter and a patrol car’s dashboard camera shows Mr. Crutcher raising his hands and leaning against his car before he was tasered by a second officer, Tyler Turnbough, who had been called onto the scene by Shelby along with two other officers. Shelby then shot Mr. Crutcher, and has since been put on paid administrative leave. It was later reported that Shelby is a trained EMS basic and had a trauma bag issued in her trunk but did not render aid to the wounded victim, who lay bleeding on the ground before her. Mr. Crutcher was eventually taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The footage released exposes how racial bias contributes to systemic flaws in the justice system that put black lives at risk. An officer in the police helicopter is heard saying that Mr. Crutcher “looks like a bad dude” despite having no interaction with the victim.
Terence Crutcher’s death is the latest in almost 400 police murders of black men in the US since the start of 2015. This shooting follows police murders of unarmed black men, women and teenage boys in Ohio, Minnesota and Cleveland.
The Department of Justice will open a civil rights investigation into the shooting, as well as recommendations of whether criminal charges should be filed against the officers. U.S. Attorney Danny C. Williams said the Department of Justice’s inquiry will be separate from the local investigation. “The Justice Department is committed to investigating allegations of force by law enforcement officers and will devote whatever resources are necessary to ensure that all allegations of serious civil rights violations are fully and completely investigated,” he said.
Speaking Monday in Tulsa, civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump said Crutcher committed no crime and gave officers no reason to shoot him.
“When unarmed people of color break down on the side of the road, we’re not treated as citizens needing help. We’re treated as, I guess, criminals — suspects that they fear,” said Crump, who is representing Crutcher’s family just as he did relatives of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed, black Florida teenager who was fatally shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer in 2012.
“So I guess it’s a crime now to be a big black man,” Crump said. “My God, help us.”
SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW stands and kneels with Terence Crutcher’s family at this tragic time and calls for a national referendum on the state of racial equality in our justice system. Preconceived notions rooted in a complex and conflicted racial history continue to affect the daily lives of black and brown people across the nation and it is our responsibility to make a difference. For more inform
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