Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby is quite fucked. But things could be worse. She could be Terence Crutcher, who is dead.
That is to say, we believe officer Shelby should be quite fucked, and from the telling words of Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan, others believe there’s a good chance she will be when our sometimes ill-named justice system is done with her.
That’s just what happens (or should) when a police officer shoots an explosive hole into the chest of an unarmed man who had the audacity to have his car stopped on the road. Sure, he appears to have disobeyed orders to stop walking around with his hands up, but if black lives really matter, that’s no reason to die.
Shelby will — we hope — face charges, stand trial and have every element of her professional career examined by prosecutors and defense attorneys. Competent journalists in Tulsa County will lead important reporting on a story and trial that have taken mere minutes to hit the national stage after video was released Monday showing the shooting.
As always, we urge you to watch the gruesome footage for yourself. Come to grips with how the unarmed father of four is killed by Shelby moments after a fellow officer has shot Crutcher with an electric stun gun. Listen as an officer in the helicopter says Crutcher looks like “a bad dude,” even though he can presumably only see Crutcher’s size, race, clothes and mildly confusing walk up the road at gunpoint. (He stops at his car door where he is ultimately shot, blood splattering across his SUV and seeping through his shirt.)
We urge patience and responsible protest while the internal police investigation proceeds and while District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler prepares to file charges. We know details will emerge, and we hesitate to jump to the conclusions we have written here until they do, but these conclusions are not that controversial.
Betty Shelby deserves her day in court — deserves to be prosecuted and tried by jury — and Terence Crutcher’s family deserves representation in the form of Shelby’s prosecution.
Based on what we know now, anything less on their behalf will be outrageous.
(Correction: This editorial was updated at 12:43 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 20, to state that Crutcher’s car was stopped on the road.)