Tuesday, May 16, 2017


Officer Betty Shelby takes the stand: 'If you delay, then you die,' she says police training taught her

By Samantha Vicent

Tulsa World
May 15, 2017

Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby adopted a matter-of-fact tone Monday when she told a prosecutor that the shooting death of Terence Crutcher in September was his own fault because he was noncompliant with her orders.

Shelby, 43, took the stand in her manslaughter trial Monday morning and discussed calmly in detail why she fatally shoot Crutcher, 40, who was unarmed. The testimony in District Judge Doug Drummond's courtroom was the most notable among a series of defense witnesses that included two officers who had arrested Crutcher in previous incidents, lead homicide detective Sgt. Dave Walker and a police psychologist who said he observed on video footage of the shooting that Shelby had "controlled fear."

Shelby told defense attorney Shannon McMurray that police training videos showed her that if suspects are allowed to reach into their vehicles, "they can pull out guns and kill you," which is why deadly force can be warranted. "I'm told in my training that you don't let them pull their arm back out," Shelby said.

"If you hesitate and delay, then you die," she said.

When McMurray brought up how Shelby saw Crutcher in the 2300 block of East 36th Street North, she said, "It impacted me so much that I saw the (training) video in my head during that situation."

"I fired my gun at Mr. Crutcher because I was fearing for my life," Shelby said, later telling her, "I fired only once because the threat stopped."

"And what was the threat?" McMurray asked.

"Mr. Crutcher," Shelby replied.

After about an hour of questioning by McMurray, Shelby was cross examined for more than an hour by Assistant District Attorney Kevin Gray, who emphasized his assertion that she repeatedly "got things wrong" about Crutcher's behavior and intentions that resulted in her using what Gray has called "unreasonable" force.

He asked her why she "chose" not to render aid to Crutcher after shooting him, why she didn't first try to use a Taser and why she didn't activate her dash cam by pushing a button on her body mic upon realizing that the situation could have been dangerous. He also repeatedly referenced Shelby's choice to appear on "60 Minutes" for an interview that aired nationally about a month before her trial began.

"Is Terence Crutcher's death his fault?" Gray asked.

"Yes," Shelby said, adding later that "if he would have only communicated with me and complied with what I asked, none of this would have happened."

Shelby appeared at ease during McMurray's questioning, smiling in the jurors' direction on a few occasions and speaking clearly. The testimony was a contrast with her emotional demeanor during her police interview about the shooting on Sept. 19, which the state has used as evidence backing its claim that she overreacted.

During Gray's cross-examination, she rarely made eye contact with him while responding and instead focused on the jury.

Gray asked Shelby at least six times on cross-examination whether she found a gun on Crutcher's body or in the vehicle. He told her multiple times that she was "meeting a guess about a gun with a gun" and asked her about police training regarding use of deadly force.

"Was there no opportunity for you to Tase him instead of kill him?" he asked. She said her training for such a situation mandated that she use a gun instead of a Taser because "he gave me the indicators that he had a gun."

Shelby told McMurray that she was suspicious of Crutcher after she smelled a chemical odor she associated with PCP toward the beginning of their altercation. Gray, in response, asked her why she hadn't mentioned that until her trial.

Shelby said she told her interviewer during the "60 Minutes" special that she smelled PCP, and when asked why that part didn't air, she said, "I'm not the editor of the '60 Minutes.'"

"A good chunk of (your Sept. 19 police) interview focused on whether Terence Crutcher was under the influence of something," Gray said. "But nowhere … do you ever mention a chemical smell."

"I explained to (Sgt. Dave Walker) all the details to the best of my ability," Shelby said.

In regard to Officer Tyler Turnbough's use of a Taser on Crutcher, she said she didn't realize that her backing officer was there until after she had fired the fatal shot. But Gray said Turnbough's testimony revealed that he drove to the scene with his car's emergency lights and siren activated.

Turnbough testified Wednesday that he announced to Shelby that he had a Taser ready, to which he reported she made a verbal acknowledgment.

"Those lights are pretty bright, and those sirens are pretty loud," Gray said. Despite Shelby's agreeing with the statement, she maintained, "I did not hear Officer Turnbough or make a response."

Shelby told McMurray that Crutcher's conduct at the intersection made her believe he had a gun either in his pocket or in his vehicle. Earlier in the trial, McMurray brought out a replica of the driver side door of Crutcher's SUV to show the pocket into which Shelby and Turnbough thought Crutcher was reaching for a weapon.

Walker, who interviewed Shelby on Sept. 19, testified Monday that it's possible a weapon could be concealed in a vehicle door pocket.

McMurray attempted Monday morning to ask Walker a series of questions about training in police-shooting cases and whether he determined that Shelby had "affirmative defenses" for her actions. The efforts prompted multiple objections from Gray, which resulted in Drummond's calling both sides to the bench for discussions out of the jury's earshot.

Drummond has previously ruled that Walker could not testify about whether he believes the shooting should be ruled justified. Despite this, Walker has been vocal about his displeasure with the way the Tulsa County District Attorney's Office announced that Shelby was being charged with manslaughter. He testified Monday that he thought the arrest affidavit from District Attorney's Office investigator Doug Campbell omitted important facts about the investigation.

Dr. Kris Mohandie, an expert witness for the defense, also testified Monday afternoon about Shelby's reactions in her police interview, saying she could have become emotional because she saw videos of the shooting just before giving her statement.

During questioning by defense attorney Scott Wood, Mohandie said he interviewed Shelby on Feb. 28 and found her to be open and honest. He said her demeanor in her September interview was a normal response to having killed a person, and he expressed his opinion that it "had nothing to do with her state of mind" when she shot Crutcher.

During cross-examination, he revealed that he is supposed to be compensated somewhere around $20,000 for his work on the case.

The gallery appeared amused at some points when Gray walked Mohandie through his history of appearing on television shows, including shows about O.J. Simpson and about ratings of killers on a scale of evilness. In a lighter moment, Mohandie conceded that he has "some experience" acting, albeit as himself, on another TV show.

In an exchange with Gray about Shelby's September interview, he questioned whether it would be a good practice to show private citizens suspected of homicides videos of their involvement before interviewing them.

"Yeah, I think that's a different situation, honestly. I heard about this question, and I don't buy it," Mohandie said. "There are different circumstances and procedures (for police.)"

He said it would "probably" be a good practice for police involved in such incidents to see all available evidence of their actions before they speak about the sequence of events. In response, Gray asked whether Monandie believes "the rules should always be different" for law enforcement.

In saying why he would not recommend doing the same for citizens, Mohandie said, "Well, you usually want to see what the person's going to say first." The comment increased whispers on both sides of the courtroom, many of whom took notes of the interaction along with the jurors.

Testimony will resume Tuesday morning.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I think it was a panic attack, not the training.

Should she have been charged? Not in my line of thinking. But any time the shooting of a black man by a white cop is questionable, the officer can kiss his law enforcement career goodbye and expect to be charged with murder.

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