Betty Shelby of the Tulsa Police Department. Tulsa Police Department and her victim Terence Crutcher, 40. Photo supplied by family)

Betty Jo Shelby of the Tulsa Police Department. Tulsa Police Department and her victim Terence Crutcher, 40. Photo Tulsa Police Department and  Facebook Terence Crutcher)

In September 2017, Terence Crutcher, an unarmed Black man, was shot dead by Tulsa Police Officer Betty Jo Shelby on the side of a road during a traffic stop. As police helicopters circled overhead, Shelby claimed that Crutcher was erratic and not responding to her commands. Initially, Shelby claimed that she pulled her handgun instead of her Taser because she felt he might be armed and was exhibiting signs of being on PCP. She also contended through her lawyer she was suffering from “auditory exclusion” and did not hear other officers arrive and one state that he had his Taser ready. Instead, she gunned down Crutcher in what one officer called a “bad [shot].”

She was later charged with manslaughter in the death of Crutcher and her trial ended this week with the jury finding her not guilty. It took a jury of nine white people and three black people a little over nine hours of deliberation to render its verdict. Crutcher’s family was present and broke down in tears as they left the courtroom.

Before announcing the verdict, Judge Doug Drummond said, “This was a very difficult case with lots of difficult issues. I hope everyone can acknowledge that … I’m asking you to trust the system.”

When protestors gathered outside heard the verdict they became angry and erupted into the now familiar chant of “No Justice, No Peace” and blocked streets. Police ordered the crowd to disperse with threats of using tear gas as they moved from the courthouse to a nearby hotel where they believed Shelby was staying during the trial. Eventually, after local pastors addressed the crowd, the protesters left the area, but the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma is now on edge as once again a cop gets away with shooting an unarmed Black man.

Mo Barnes

"Mo Betta" Maurice "Mo" Barnes is a graduate of Morehouse College and Political Scientist based in Atlanta. Mo is also a Blues musician.