THE CASE OF
BY Dr. Paul R. Lehman
The jury in Tulsa found Betty Shelby not guiltyand in doing so told the world that AfricanAmericans and other people of color have norights that a police officer need to respect. Once anAfrican American is stopped by a police officer, his orher life is forfeited to that officer. Facts and evidenceplay no part in the reason for killing an African Americanby a police officer if we follow the accounts of theshooting of Terence Crutcher.
Once police officers stop African Americans, the African Americans lose the right to speak because anything they say can be interpreted by the officers as disrespectful or threatening, whicheverthey choose. TheAfrican Americanslose the right to movebecause any movement might be seen as a threat to theofficer’s life. So, what can the African Americans dowhen stopped by a police officer? A frequently used bitof advice is to comply with the officer’s command. Theproblem with that is if the African American starts thecompliance too slowly then the officer is forced to takeaction. That action might involve the use of a taser.When someone is shot with a taser, he must remainperfectly still or his movement will be seen as resistingarrest and not complying with the officer’s command.In other words, the African Americans are damned bywhatever they say or
do as far as the police are concerned.
Some people will say that no one loses his or her rightswhen stopped by a police officer. If that is not the case,then why are the victims of a fatal police shootingalways viewed as guilty of a crime when they neverhad an opportunity to present their side of the eventthat led to the shooting? The victim’s side is alwayschallenged even with clear and concise video showswhat happened. The problem is with the justice systemand the non-thinking jury that fails to use commonsense or follow facts and evidence in order to clear anofficer of any wrongdoing. Shelby’s reason for shootingCrutcher indicates that she is a danger to the publicor the African American public. She stated: “…shefired her weapon out of fear because she said he didn’tobey her command to lie on the ground…” One has to
wonder as to what caused her fear. The video showed Crutcher walking a distance in front of her with both hands in the air. If this posture created fear in her, then the entire public is suspect. What was she afraid of that caused her to shoot? She said that it was when he “appeared to reach inside his SUV for what she thought was a gun.” The report noted that Crutcher was unarmed, the window as up, and no weapon was found in his SUV.
In the article, “Jury finds Tulsa officer not guilty,” (TheOklahoman 5/18/2017) stated the following: “Prosecutorstold jurors that Shelby overreacted. They notedCrutcher had his hands in the air and wasn’t combative—part of which was confirmed by police videotaken from a dashboard camera and helicopter thatshowed Crutcher walking away from Shelby, handsheld above his head.” We should note that Shelby wasnot alone on the
scene; she had a fellow police officer near to her. One wonders what caused the jury to rule the way they did in view of all the visual information available to them.
In addition to being afraid, we learn that “Shelby alsosaid she feared the influence of PCP, a powerful hallucinogenicknown as Angel Dust that makes users erratic,unpredictable and combative.” However, as statedearlier, Crutcher manifested none of those characteristics.”After an autopsy was performed, PCP was foundin his system and also in his SUV. That informationwas discovered after the shooting, not before. One concernabout this incident is why was Crutcher stopped?Could a force less lethal have been employed to effectShelby’s purpose? What kind of instructions was thejury given in their deliberation in this case?
Dr. Paul R. Lehman is a university Professor Emeritus in the department of English, and a former Dean of the Graduate College, at the University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, Oklahoma. He was also a former CBS (affiliate) News Anchor, Producer, and Reporter.