The twin sister of Terence Crutcher — the unarmed black man who was shot dead by a white police officer in yet another case that has highlighted the rocky relationship between law enforcement and minorities — is calling on that officer to be aggressively prosecuted.
Officer Betty Shelby should “be prosecuted at the highest extent of the law,” Tiffany Crutcher told MSNBC on Wednesday. While an attorney for Shelby has said the officer was concerned Crutcher may have been reaching for a weapon, his sister responded, “The video is so clear cut. His hands were in the air. The window was up. He was unarmed. He was moving slow. He was not a threat. He was not a fleeing felon.”
Tiffany Crutcher added, “They treated him like he was the New York bomber. And the New York bomber is alive right now,” she said, referring to Ahmad Khan Rahami who was charged with attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, among other charges, after a shootout Monday with police in New Jersey.
Crutcher's death has sparked outrage in the community and around the country, especially after authorities released dashcam and helicopter footage on Monday showing the 40-year-old with his hands in the air as authorities approached him and just moments before one officer tasered him while another officer fired her gun. Crutcher’s family said he was waiting for help on the side of the road after his car broke down.
An officer flying in a helicopter overhead observing the scene was heard saying to a spotter, “That looks like a bad dude, too.” That comment would not have been heard by officers on the ground, according to the Tulsa Police Department.
Tiffany Crutcher said hearing about that officer’s remarks infuriated her. “I’m angered. I’ve dealt with a whirlwind of emotions over the last few days — pain, hurt, confusion. But when I hear that comment, I get angry because an officer of the law who is paid to protect and serve, prejudged my brother. Prejudged him — he didn’t have a chance to live. And it’s just not right.”
The Department of Justice has opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting. And Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler has also said his office will review police reports and evidence from Crutcher's shooting to determine whether charges should be filed against the officer involved.
Shelby's lawyer Scott Wood on Tuesday floated the theory that "she clearly believed him to be under the influence of some kind of narcotic, possibly PCP," at the time of the shooting.
Tulsa Police Sgt. Dave Walker later told the Tulsa World that investigators did recover a vial of PCP, the hallucinogen also known as Angel Dust, in Crutcher's SUV. But Crutcher family lawyers noted Tuesday that no postmortem drug tests have yet been completed and such talk was a distraction.
“What he needed was a helping hand and they gave him a bullet in the lungs,” Crutcher family attorney Benjamin Crump told MSNBC.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch discussed the shooting, along with Tuesday night’s shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“These tragic incidents have once again left Americans with feelings of sorrow, anger and uncertainty. They have once again highlighted — in the most vivid and painful terms — the real divisions that still persist in this nation between law enforcement and communities of color,” said Lynch at an international bar association event.
Meanwhile, Crutcher is being remembered by his friends and family as a church-going, family man. Tiffany Crutcher recounted the two of them celebrating their 40th birthday last month and how they shared their goals, dreams and aspirations for the next 40 years. “He said ‘I’m going to make you all proud,'" she recalls. "And now he’ll never get that chance."