A former Oklahoma police officer who was acquitted in the shooting death of an unarmed black man has accepted another position in law enforcement.
Betty Shelby, the former Tulsa police officer who was acquitted in May of first-degree manslaughter in the death of Terence Crutcher, has joined the sheriff’s office in Rogers County, Oklahoma, as a reserve deputy.
She was sworn in to her position less than a year after Crutcher’s death. Shelby shot and killed Crutcher in September 2016, saying she was fearful for her life after he did not comply with her commands. She resigned from the Tulsa Police Department several months after her acquittal.
Shelby’s presence in the sheriff’s office will “bring a lot to the table,” Sheriff Scott Walton told reporters during a news conference on Thursday. She has 10 years of experience in law enforcement, Walton said.
As a reserve deputy, Shelby will have the same responsibilities a full-time police officer would have, Walton said. Shelby will not get paid in the position and will be utilized “when time permits.”
With Shelby’s hire, the sheriff’s office hopes to put her past behind them. Walton said Shelby just wants to “do her job.” She is the 31st member of the reserve program.
“It’s very, very evident that she wants to do her job and serve her community. It’s not a publicity stunt, it’s not a get even deal, it’s bringing somebody that’s passionate for law enforcement,” Walton said.
Walton defended Shelby’s actions in the 2016 shooting, arguing that hesitating to use deadly force could have “taken away not only (her) protection, but you’re taking away (her) ability to protect the people that we are sworn to protect.”
“I’d hate to think that I was part of not supporting the duties that come with law enforcement that often turn ugly,” he said. “I’d hate to think that I was sitting there quietly and letting a movement take over and take our ability to protect and not only protect people, but get officers killed.”
Shelby gave a short statement after she was sworn in Thursday, saying she will “strive to improve the relationships between law enforcement agencies, organizations and our community through education and community involvement” in her new position.
Walton said he has no concerns about her serving the county and said she will serve as a reserve until “decisions are made on where she wants to go further with her career.”
The shooting and trial
The shooting took place on September 16, 2016, when Shelby responded to a call involving a stalled car. A witness called 911 and said a man was running away from the vehicle, saying it was going to blow up.
Shelby testified that she arrived on the scene and cleared the vehicle, after approaching it and not finding anyone inside. She was walking back to her car when she saw Crutcher walking toward her, alternately putting his hands in his pockets and in the air, she said.
Shelby ordered Crutcher to “show me your hands,” which he did not do, she testified. She also said he was sweating heavily and smelled of PCP chemicals. Crutcher also ignored orders from Tyler Turnbough, another officer on the scene.
Crutcher then put his hands on the SUV and appeared to reach inside the car through a window, Shelby said. Her police training taught her to not let a suspect pull their hands out if they reach inside a car, she said.
Shelby then fired her weapon and Turnbough fired his Taser, she testified. Crutcher was found to be unarmed after the shooting, police said.
The jury foreman’s letter released after the trial said the shooting was “unfortunate and tragic, but justifiable due to the actions of the subject.”
Members of Crutcher’s family said the verdict was “a tough pill to swallow.”
“Terence’s hands were up,” his sister, Tiffany Crutcher, said. “Terence was not an imminent threat. Terence did not attack her. Terence didn’t charge at her. Terence was not the aggressor.”