The manslaughter trial for a White Tulsa, Oklahoma, police officer who fatally shot an unarmed Black motorist is underway, ABC News reports.
Betty Shelby, 43, shot and killed 40-year-old Terence Crutcher after approaching him on the side of a road on Sept. 16, 2016. Video shows Crutcher, whose car had broken down, walking away from her with his hands on his head.
According to the Tulsa County District Attorney’s office, 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 help up, becoming emotionally involved to the point that she overreacted.”
Shelby has been on unpaid leave since the shooting, and attorneys representing her said that before the video started, their client repeatedly ordered Crutcher to stop walking away and to get on the ground. Shelby’s legal counsel also said she feared for her life and thought Crutcher was reaching into his vehicle for a gun.
An autopsy revealed that Crutcher reportedly had PCP in his system.
During opening statements Thursday, Prosecutor Kevin Grey said Shelby had just finished dinner and was en route to respond to a domestic disturbance call when she discovered Crutcher’s vehicle.
Referring to the dash and helicopter footage that captured the event, Grey told the jury, “You will see what it looks like from a police officer’s perspective.”
Grey also implied that Shelby received special treatment by the Tulsa Police Department when she was allowed to view all video associated with the incident before making an official statement to detectives.
“She gave him every opportunity to comply, the evidence with show you,” Defense Attorney, Shannon McMurray, told the jury.
“This was a rush to file charges,” McMurray said. “And when you look at the whole picture, all the evidence will show this.”
Shelby entered a plea of “not guilty” and faces four years to life in prison if convicted. The U.S. Justice Department has also opened a civil rights investigation into Crutcher’s death.