Closing arguments in Tulsa police officer's trial to begin Wednesday

Reuters News
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Posted: May 17, 2017 8:54 AM

By Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton

TULSA, Okla. (Reuters) - Closing arguments are to begin on Wednesday in the manslaughter trial of a white Tulsa police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man in an incident caught on video that stoked debate over racial bias in U.S. policing.

Officer Betty Shelby, 43, faces from four years to life in prison if convicted of manslaughter in the September 2016 killing of Terence Crutcher, then 40, whose car was blocking a road.

In the videos, Crutcher can be seen with his hands in the air and walking away from Shelby before he was shot. Tulsa police have said Crutcher was unarmed and there was no weapon in his vehicle.

Shelby took the stand in her own defense in the week-long trial in a state district court and said her training led her to shoot Crutcher, believing he may have been reaching for a weapon through a window that was partially opened.

But prosecutors said Shelby recklessly ratcheted up tensions and blame her for turning a routine traffic matter into a deadly confrontation.

Much of the testimony before the jury, which includes two black women and a black man, centered around what transpired in the incident and proper police protocol for dealing with such a situation.

Shelby, who denied accusations that race was a factor in her response, put the focus on Crutcher's actions, saying he appeared to be high on drugs and did not respond to police commands as he approached the partially open vehicle window.

Prosecutors said drug use and ignoring commands are no reason for Shelby, or any officer, to use deadly force against a civilian.

The Oklahoma Medical Examiner's Office said that Crutcher had the hallucinogenic drug PCP in his bloodstream at the time of his death, a condition it described as "acute phencyclidine (PCP) intoxication."

(Reporting by Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Dan Grebler)