Betty Jo Shelby, the white Tulsa police officer charged with manslaughter in the shooting death of an unarmed black driver in September, testified on Monday that during the encounter, she relied on her training in how to deal with potentially dangerous suspects.
“I have all the indications that he has a gun,” Officer Shelby said under questioning by the prosecutor, Kevin Gray, of her response when the driver, Terence Crutcher, failed to follow her orders to stop moving toward his car. “I do not pull a Taser out, which is less lethal. I meet a gun with a gun.”
“In this situation, though,” Mr. Gray said, “you’re not meeting a gun with a gun. You’re meeting a guess about a gun with a gun.”
Responding to questions from her lawyer, Shannon McMurray, Officer Shelby testified that she thought Mr. Crutcher had a gun when he reached into a car window, and that she had been trained to shoot before he could take a shot.
“I’m told in my training: Do not let them pull their arm back out,” Officer Shelby said.
“Why?” Ms. McMurray asked.
“Because they may have a gun or a weapon,” Officer Shelby responded.
The fatal encounter played out amid a series of deaths across the country at the hands of the police that raised questions about officers’ use of force, particularly against African-American men. Video cameras in the police cars and a helicopter circling above recorded the encounter in Tulsa, which drew national attention.
Before taking the stand, Officer Shelby, 43, wrung her hands and looked nervous while consulting with her lawyer. But she appeared calm and collected during her testimony, her voice gaining confidence as she recalled her career in law enforcement, first as a court deputy and later in the Tulsa Police Department as a patrol officer. Officer Shelby said she underwent training for 262 hours per year, well beyond the required 25 hours, to earn extra certifications, such as becoming a drug recognition expert.
Several jurors took rapid notes as she led them through a computer simulation of her encounter with Mr. Crutcher, and then a police helicopter video.
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SOURCE: NY Times, Lucia Walinchus