Oklahoma cop who was acquitted in shooting death of unarmed black man is now an NRA gun instructor

Betty Shelby, the ex-Tulsa cop who fatally shot Terence Crutcher in 2016, will soon teach an NRA course. Crutcher's family calls it "a slap in the face."
Betty Shelby
Betty Shelby leaves the courtroom following testimony in her trial in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on May 12, 2017.Sue Ogrocki / AP file

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By Ben Kesslen

A white Oklahoma police officer acquitted in the shooting death of an unarmed black man is now teaching pistol lessons through the NRA.

Betty Shelby, the former Tulsa police officer who fatally shot Terence Crutcher in September 2016, said she shot him in self-defense. Video of the shooting showed Crutcher holding his hands above his head prior to the shooting. Crutcher then appears to reach into his vehicle, which is when Shelby opened fire. She was charged with manslaughter of the unarmed father in 2016, but acquitted by a jury in 2017.

Shelby was placed on desk duty after the shooting, a position she resigned from two months after her acquittal. “Sitting behind a desk...is just not for me,” Shelby said in a statement released by her union at the time, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 93.

Now, Shelby has a new job — teaching shooting courses for the NRA.

According to the NRA’s website and a Facebook event for the course, Shelby will teach the day-long “NRA Basic Pistol Shooting Course” on May 11. The course costs $85 to attend and will take place at the U.S. Shooting Academy in Tulsa. The Facebook event says attendees “will need a minimum of 100 rounds of ammo” to participate.

The Facebook event page was posted by Shelby's company, ISWB, LLC, which says on its Facebook profile that it's “dedicated to providing real life training to law enforcement and civilians." ISWB stands for “I Stand With Betty,” a slogan adopted by Tulsa police officers after Shelby was charged with the death of Crutcher.

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Shelby's attorney, Scott Wood, told NBC News he believes his client is teaching the course because it allows her to do something related to her former law enforcement career.

“It’s the most basic class you could take on any type of firearms, it’s just really for people who have never been around a firearm or even shot a gun before,” said Wood.

Wood said Shelby teaches other classes, like tactical medicine and first aid in the field, saying she was certified by the NRA to be a licensed instructor. "She has a passion for teaching and training."

Damario Solomon-Simmons, the Crutcher family’s attorney, said his clients were “horrified” to learn that Shelby is teaching the pistol course.

“For her to be teaching gun safety and gun classes is the ultimate slap in the face,” Solomon-Simmons said, adding that the class being taught a day before Mother’s Day was particularly difficult for Crutcher's mother.

Vincent Southerland, director of the Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law, at NYU Law, agrees.

“Betty Shelby is the last person in the world who should be involved with training people how and when to shoot a gun,” Southerland told NBC News. “When she encountered Mr. Crutcher, she didn’t see a helpless motorist or a person in distress — she saw a threat, with absolutely no objective reason for seeing him that way. That’s not someone who should be anywhere near a gun, regardless of her acquittal.”

Solomon-Simmons said he and the Crutcher family were particularly disturbed to see Shelby “use her celebrity” for profit, when “the only reason people know who Betty Shelby is comes from the the fact she was caught on video killing an unarmed, nonviolent individual.”

Wood acknowledged the controversy around his client teaching the course. “Anything she has tried to do, there has always been whiplash. There is just a certain group of people that aren’t going to be happy no matter what she does."

The NRA did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment.