Another police-involved shooting death of an unarmed black man has occurred in Tulsa, Oklahoma and the media frenzy has begun. On Friday, 40-year-old Terence Crutcher was shot and killed by Officer Betty Shelby when she said he wouldn’t comply with police commands, walked back to his vehicle, and reached inside his vehicle.
Of course, this is a tragic incident. The video of the shooting more clearly shown from a police helicopter circling the scene is horrible to watch. Still, before we feast on the buffet of false narratives, namely that cops are waging quasi-genocide against African Americans, there are way too many questions left unanswered. Moreover, we have news organizations giving two different stories of the shooting. ABC News says that Crutcher placed both of his hands on the car, while The New York Times added Officer Shelby’s recollection of the events, citing Crutcher reaching into his car and noting that she thought he had a weapon.
Crutcher’s vehicle was stalled in the middle of the road, these officers were responding to a separate call when they encountered him. When you see the helicopter footage and the dash cam, it’s clear that Crutcher is walking back to his car. It also shows him lowering his hands and appears to be trying to get back inside his vehicle. The officers obscure view, but the helicopter footage does seem to corroborate what Officer Shelby said about Crutcher trying to reach inside the car through the window. His hands were not raised at the time. Over at Bearing Arms, Bob Owens wrote about the video footage, but also, and most importantly, why a) you should comply with police; and b) why walking back to your car, or attempting to get back into the vehicle, can lead to you getting shot and killed the police.
In 1998, Deputy Kyle Dinkheller of Laurens County, Georgia pulled over Andrew H. Brannan for speeding. Brannan exited the vehicle and taunted Dinkheller to shoot him. Brannan’s erratic behavior continued, with him ignoring Deputy Dinkheller's commands, forcing the young officer to call for assistance. As Dinkheller was trying to get control of the situation while calling for backup, Brannan returned to vehicle, where he pulled out a M1 Carbine and proceeded to get into a firefight with Dinkheller. The deputy, who was just 22 years old at the time, is heard screaming in agony as Brannan hit him multiple times. The last words thrown at Deputy Dinkheller were “die f***er,” as Brannan delivered a fatal shot. Brannan was tried and sentenced to death by lethal injection; he was executed last year.
The court case delivers a more detailed background [warning: some strong language]:
On January 12, 1998, Brannan was stopped for driving his truck at 98 miles per hour by Kyle Dinkheller, a Laurens County Deputy Sheriff. Dinkheller's patrol cruiser was equipped with a video recorder, and Dinkheller was wearing a microphone. The recording shows that Brannan exited his truck and addressed Dinkheller with relative cordiality. However, Brannan became angry with Dinkheller when he ordered Brannan to take his hands out of his pockets. Brannan shouted, “Fuck you, goddamn it, here I am. Shoot my fucking ass.” Brannan then began dancing around in the street, yelling, “Here I am, here I am [s]hoot me.” When Dinkheller placed a call on his radio for assistance, Brannan yelled, “Who are you calling, motherfucker?” Brannan then charged at Dinkheller repeatedly as Dinkheller ordered him to get back and drew his baton. Brannan yelled, “Fuck you,” repeatedly, and he then yelled, “I am a goddamn Vietnam combat veteran.”Brannan then began rummaging behind the driver's seat of his truck, ignoring Dinkheller's orders for him to stop. Brannan yelled that he was in fear for his life, and Dinkheller replied that he was in fear for his own life. Brannan took a .30 caliber carbine rifle from his truck, crouched at the door of his truck, and pointed the rifle at Dinkheller. After Dinkheller repeatedly ordered Brannan to put the rifle down, shots were fired by both men. Dinkheller was hit, and he attempted to retreat and take cover behind the patrol cruiser. Brannan pursued Dinkheller, firing repeatedly and reloading. Brannan was shot once in the abdomen. Dinkheller had been shot nine times and had likely lost consciousness when Brannan took careful aim, said, “Die fucker,” and fired a final shot. Brannan then fled in his truck. He was discovered hiding in the woods outside his home and was arrested. He gave statements to GBI agents indicating that he regretted what had happened but that he believed Dinkheller had provoked him with an aggressive and disrespectful approach.
The whole incident was captured on Deputy Dinkheller’s dash cam, which is disturbing [Warning: graphic violence]
As more information comes out, we have learned that Crutcher had PCP in the car. The toxicology report won’t be due for another several weeks, lawyers for the Crutcher family said this is a distraction, according to The Associated Press:
Attorneys for Crutcher's family said the man's relatives did not know whether drugs were found in his vehicle and, even if they were, that wouldn't justify his fatal shooting.
"Let us not be throwing a red herring, and to say because something was found in the car that was justification to shoot him," said attorney Benjamin Crump, one of the family's lawyers.
Crump compared Crutcher's shooting to Monday's arrest of New York bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami, who police say engaged officers in a shootout.
"He wasn't killed. So why was an unarmed black man who has committed no crime, who only needs a hand, given bullets in his lungs?" Crump said.
Again, if it is determined that Crutcher was indeed trying to get back into his car, the use of force discussion in this Tulsa incident is changed due to the Dinkheller incident, which is used during police trainings today. It goes without saying that law enforcement is a difficult job, seconds count between life and death decisions, and people not complying with police, only raises the stakes in these situations. There was no gun in Crutcher’s car, but in many other instances there have been—and people have been killed as a result.
UPDATE: Enhanced footage apparently shows that the car window of Crutcher’s vehicle was up at the time he was shot. Still, he walked back to his car after reportedly ignoring commands from police, which, again, could lead to tragic results.