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Officer Betty Shelby Found Not Guilty After Killing Unarmed Man With His Hands Raised

Officer Betty Shelby Found Not Guilty After Killing Unarmed Man With His Hands Raised

Tulsa, Oklahoma police officer Betty Jo Shelby found not guilty of first-degree manslaughter after shooting and killing an unarmed man. Her victim was 40-year-old Terence Crutcher, a black motorist whose hands were raised above his head and posed no reasonable threat to Shelby at the time she discharged her weapon. Prosecutors highlighted that two police videos showing the full encounter indicate Shelby overreacted. Jurors were given access to both a police dashboard camera as well as the overhead camera angle from a Tulsa Police helicopter. 

Credit: image released by the Tulsa Police Department, shows Crutcher with his hands raised moments before Shelby opens fire.

The helicopter was dispatched when officers cited fear associated with a routine traffic stop. Regardless of fear an officer harbors, routine traffic stops ought to never end in execution. The moments these encounters end in tragedy, it is the responsibility of judges and juries to hold officers accountable. The Tulsa World is reporting jury demographics as follows:

• eight women
• four men
• nine white
• two black women
* one black male alternate

Despite a small fraction of the jury being black, police brutality apologists and white supremacist sympathizers will find a way to proclaim this a diverse panel that set a standard of high quality jury deliberation. Objective observers with at least one functioning eye witnessed a man get gunned down for nothing more than driving his car and walking on a highway with black skin. Not that it matters considering his HANDS WERE RAISED ABOVE HIS HEAD, no gun was found in Crutcher's car, nor was a gun recovered from his person.

Officer Shelby stands by her initial defense, "Crutcher appeared to reach for a gun." With past representing prologue, Shelby's acquittal could have been predicted. The age old 'reaching for ___' defense generally absolves officers of murder no matter what the circumstance, whenever the victim is black. As witnessed in the videos released by the Tulsa Police Department, Crutcher posed no real threat to Shelby other than threatening her white supremacy. 

Bad cops like Shelby who shoot first out of fear, then ask questions later, are indicative of the modern state of U.S. policing. Police brutality apologists encourage these abuses of power by their silence and unwillingness to see wrongdoing when the culprit wears a badge and toes the blue line. 

One fact is certain, if not for white fear, Terence Crutcher would not have been shot to death on an Oklahoma highway September 16, 2016. Officer Shelby's fear of Crutcher's dark skin should not justify her pulling the trigger. But in the United States, when police fear derives from racial prejudice, justice is seldom served. This latest acquittal of another state sanctioned, uniformed executioner adds another blemish to the horrendous U.S. record of injustice. 

For black men in this country, there is no right way to speak or walk or gesture or breathe or drive or exist. All of these (speaking, walking, gesturing, breathing, driving, and merely existing) have all led to the unceremonious execution of black men by police officers. And sadly, in almost every case, the officer's decision to escalate situations by using lethal force was justified by their fear. 

When will this country stop allowing white fear to justify black death?

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