One of the most controversial subjects in current events is racially motivated police brutality. More and more attention is being drawn to how often police officers seem to respond with excessive force when dealing with black men. In the wake of cases such as 12 year old Tamir Rice who was killed by a police officer while playing with a toy gun, yet another unarmed black male has been killed by the police department of Tulsa Oklahoma. A shocking video of the shooting was just released that shows the victim raising his hands over his head moments before being fired on.
During an encounter between 40 year old Terence Crutcher and the Tulsa police department on September 16, Crutcher was fatally shot by Officer Betty Shelby. The incident happened after the police got a report that an abandoned vehicle was blocking an open road. After going to answer this call, Shelby said that they encountered Crutcher acting erratically, so she called and requested backup because he was not cooperating with her. The backup was Officer Turnbough and his partner, and their dashboard camera captured the entire incident.
In the video, the backup arrives as Shelby walks towards Crutcher, who had his hands raised high in the air. She makes him walk towards his car, which is stuck in the middle of the road. He seems mostly calm, though a little confused, and keeps his hands raised high in the air the entire time. The three other police officers start to surround him, as a helicopter arrives. A police helicopter arrives, and you can hear them reporting what they are seeing from the air.
One officer reports that Crutcher has his hands up, is walking where the officers told him to go, and generally following demands. However, then one of the officers suddenly says that it is “time for a Taser,” and a second officer, who was later identified as the shooter’s husband, agrees that “I got a feeling [a tasing is] about to happen.” Right as this is said, the four officers surround Crutcher so that he is blocked from the view of the dashcam. You can hear a woman yell “shots fired!” over the radio, and then the officers back up to reveal Crutcher collapsed on the ground. It was later revealed that Crutcher was tased before being shot in the back, and he quickly died.
The release of the video has sparked outrage from Mr. Crutcher’s family and several civil rights organizations. The shocking fact that somehow Crutcher was shot and killed in just the ten seconds he was obscured from camera view, after being shown to be calm and compliant with no reason to suspect that he was involved in any illegal behavior, is truly upsetting. Somehow, none of the officers seem able to reveal what happened during these moments when Crutcher was killed. There are a few confused claims that he seemed to be reaching towards the window of his car, which was somehow interpreted as a threat by the officers. The federal Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation after viewing the video.
Unlike many other cases of police brutality, it is a relief to see that the Tulsa police department seems to be devoted to full transparency. According to city mayor, Dewey F. Bartlett Jr., “This city will be transparent, this city will not cover up, this city will do exactly what is necessary to make sure that all rights are protected and to make sure that all rights shall be done.” Sadly, no one knows if this statement will end up being true until the investigation is finally complete.