Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby, charged with felony manslaughter in the shooting death of an unarmed man earlier this month, appeared in court Friday and pleaded not guilty through an attorney.
According to CNN affiliate KTUL, the family of Terence Crutcher, the man killed by Shelby, was in the courtroom.
“Today was just the first step toward the justice that we want for Terence and his family, and we look forward to the next court hearing to continue to move forward in this process,” attorney Demario Solomon-Simmons told the Tulsa-based station.
The case drew national attention after police released videos showing Crutcher walking on the road with his arms in the air before the shooting. He returned to his SUV, which was stopped in the middle of the road, and was next to the driver’s door when he was shot.
No weapon was found.
The criminal complaint against Shelby said her “fear resulted in her unreasonable actions which led her to shooting” Crutcher, 40. She is accused of “unlawfully and unnecessarily” shooting him after he did not comply with her “lawful orders.”
The incident was recorded on dashboard camera and from a police helicopter.
Scott Wood, an attorney representing Shelby, has said there’s more to the story than the videos.
Days after the Sept. 16 incident, Wood said Shelby thought Crutcher was retrieving a weapon from his car when she opened fire. She had yelled repeatedly that he should get down and stop walking, Wood said. But Crutcher kept going, placing his hands in his pockets, where she also feared there could be a weapon, Wood said.
A preliminary hearing date has been set for late November, the Tulsa County Clerk of Courts office said.
The possible penalty for conviction on first-degree manslaughter in Oklahoma is four years to life, according to Susan Witt, the spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office.