On Friday, police in Tulsa, Oklahoma, responded to a call about an abandoned vehicle left running in the middle of a road. Video footage taken from a police helicopter showed four officers on the ground confronting 40-year-old Terence Crutcher as he walked back to his SUV, his hands held high in the air. Crutcher was Tased, then fatally shot.
At a press conference on Monday, Tulsa police chief Chuck Jordan said Crutcher was unarmed and did not have a weapon in his car. Police also released dashcam footage of the incident, along with video from the helicopter — Jordan called the footage "disturbing" — and it sparked swift outrage. Once again, in an encounter with the police, an unarmed black man was killed.
During the last moments of his life, an officer in the helicopter was caught on tape describing Crutcher as looking "like a bad dude" from hundreds of feet up in the air. For many people, it was a telling indication of the police's dangerous, consequential habit of racial profiling that has killed scores of black people — men, women and children alike.
On Monday, Crutcher's family held a news conference demanding immediate charges against the cop who shot Crutcher. His twin sister, Tiffany Crutcher, spoke of the family's heartbreak, and referenced the officer's comment about her brother.
"You all want to know who that 'big bad dude' was? That 'big bad dude' was my twin brother. That 'big bad dude' was a father. That 'big bad dude' was a son. That 'big bad dude' was enrolled at Tulsa Community College. He just wanted to make us proud. That 'big bad dude' loved God. That 'big bad dude' was at church singing, with all of his flaws. Every week. That 'big bad dude' — that's who he was," she said. "That 'big bad dude,' his life mattered."
Tiffany Crutcher's anguish reverberated throughout black communities, and many took to social media to express their grief and fury.
Officer Betty Shelby, the cop who fatally shot Crutcher, gave a statement to homicide detectives on Monday, the New York Times reported. The Tulsa police department said Shelby is on paid administrative leave, and it has opened a criminal investigation into the shooting. The Department of Justice has opened a separate civil rights investigation.
Cover image via Shutterstock.