Tulsa County Jail(TULSA, Okla.) — A judge has ordered the Tulsa, Oklahoma police officer who shot and killed a 40-year-old black man in September to stand trial for manslaughter, according to the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office.
Officer Betty Shelby appeared in court for a preliminary hearing Tuesday, where Judge Deborrah Ludi-Leitch said there was enough evidence for her to stand trial after reviewing police helicopter and dashcam video from the scene, according to the district attorney’s office.
Shelby’s defense team was not surprised with the judge’s ruling because “the evidence is viewed in a light most favorable to the state” and “there’s a presumption that the state’s evidence will be stronger when presented at trial,” according to attorney Scott Wood.
On Sept. 16, Shelby shot and killed Terence Crutcher after she came across his SUV, which was parked in the middle of a two-lane roadway with the engine still running. Crutcher ignored dozens of commands Shelby gave him, Wood told ABC News after the incident. The officer then shot Crutcher as he allegedly tried to reach his arm into the open driver’s side window, Wood said.
Police video from the scene showed that Crutcher had his hands up walking towards an SUV as an officer points a gun at him. Then, he appears to lower his hands before the shooting, according to video.
The Crutcher family has maintained that the window was closed.
Police said he was high on drugs at the time and acting erratically. The medical examiner found that he had PCP in his system.
Lead homicide detective for the Tulsa Police Department, Sgt. Dave Walker, was the first to testify in Tuesday’s hearing. Walker said that Shelby’s interviews matched the statements of other officers who were on the scene on Sept. 16. Walker added that he believes Shelby feared for her life when she shot Crutcher, ABC Tulsa affiliate KTUL-TV reported.
Shelby and Tulsa Officer Tyler Turnbough, who arrived shortly before the shooting, both said they were fearful of Crutcher, according to Walker. When Crutcher, who had his hands in the air, dropped his left arm and moved toward the partially open window of his SUV, Turnbough deployed a Taser at nearly the same time Shelby fired her gun at Crutcher, Walker said.
The Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office said that Shelby overreacted, and District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler charged her with first-degree manslaughter.
Shelby reacted “unreasonably by escalating the situation from a confrontation” with Crutcher, according to an affidavit by an investigator with the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office. Shelby became “emotionally involved” to the point that she overreacted, the affidavit states, adding that she was “not able to see any weapons or bulges indicating a weapon was present.”
Shelby turned herself in on Sept. 23 and was released 20 minutes later on $50,000 bond. She has pleaded not guilty and will appear in court next on Dec. 15.
Kunzweiler did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.
After Shelby was charged, Damario Solomon-Simmons, the attorney for Crutcher family, said it would be a “long journey to justice,” noting that neither charges nor a conviction would “bring Terence back.”
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