Rights Groups Demand Justice for Unarmed Black Man Shot and Killed by Tulsa Police

"Today, four children are without a father, a mother without a son, a sister without a brother, and a community wondering how many more black lives will be destroyed before America stands up and says 'never again.'"

Tiffany Crutcher reacts to her twin brother's death in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Photo: Mike Simons/Tulsa World via AP)

Civil rights groups and family members of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man who was shot and killed by police in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Friday, are demanding justice for the slain father of four.

Dashboard and helicopter footage released late Monday shows Crutcher with his hands in the air as four white police officers approach him, guns drawn and pointed at him, in the moments before he was shot. Video footage of the shooting can be viewed below. (Warning: footage is graphic and may be disturbing.)

Crutcher's death is the latest fatal shooting of an African-American person by police at a moment when the Movement for Black Lives has created a national debate on police brutality that activists say disproportionately targets black communities.

"The murder of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man, by a Tulsa police officer is yet another reminder that our nation's law enforcement departments need radical change,"said Lecia Brooks, outreach director at the Southern Poverty Law Center. "Today, four children are without a father, a mother without a son, a sister without a brother, and a community wondering how many more black lives will be destroyed before America stands up and says 'never again.'"

"It's time for everybody to demand that this stops and that justice is served," said Crutcher's twin sister, who appeared devastated during a press conference on Tuesday:

Crutcher's family says his car had broken down in the middle of the road, and that Crutcher had just left the vehicle to seek help when police arrived.

"They treated him like a criminal," added one of the family's lawyers, Benjamin Crump. "They treated him like a suspect. They did not treat him like somebody in distress who needed help. Instead of giving him a hand, they gave him bullets."

The 40-year-old husband and father had no criminal record. The U.S. Department of Justice announced Tuesday that it is investigating the shooting.

"[The Tulsa police officers’] actions were immoral, reprehensible, and outright criminal." —Brady Henderson, ACLU of Oklahoma

"As the Department of Justice investigates this case, we must confront the racism embedded so deeply in police practices and demand change now," Brooks said.

"As Terence's family and community plead for peaceful protests and level heads, today's promise of an independent federal investigation perhaps will bring some hope for peaceful resolution to a community that has been brutally betrayed by the people sworn to protect it," said legal director of the ACLU of Oklahoma Brady Henderson.

"If this killing is investigated competently and fairly, I believe we will see murder or manslaughter charges against the shooter, and hopefully accessory charges against the officers who treated Terence Crutcher like a piece of meat rather than a human being. Their actions were immoral, reprehensible, and outright criminal," Henderson continued. "Putting Terence's killer and her companions behind bars won't bring Terrence back, but it is a necessary part of repairing the broken bond between police and communities of color, a rift that continues to claim lives."

The officer who shot Crutcher, Betsy Shelby, is white. She said she thought Crutcher was behaving as though he was on PCP, and that Crutcher was not cooperating before she fatally shot him. Shelby has been placed on paid administrative leave.

The police officers did not offer first aid to Crutcher for over two minutes after he was shot. In the video footage, he is shown lying prone on the street while blood pools around him.

The fatal shooting occurred only three days before the suspect in the New York and New Jersey bomb incidents, Ahmad Khan Rahami, was arrested alive despite engaging in a gun battle with police officers. The contrast between Rahami's arrest and Crutcher's treatment was one that several observers pointed out in the wake of Crutcher's death.

"Can African-Americans all over the country get a little of that Ahmad Khan Rahami treatment?" asked Black Lives Matter activist and journalist Shaun King. "The family of Terence Crutcher could've really used some of that Ahmad Khan Rahami police work."


Republished with permission under license from CommonDreams.

SPLC Statement on the Death of Terence Crutcher

Yesterday, authorities in Tulsa, Oklahoma, released dashboard and aerial video capturing the killing by police of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man. 

Lecia Brooks, Outreach Director at the Southern Poverty Law Center, released the following statement in response to the event: 

"The murder of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man, by a Tulsa police officer is yet another reminder that our nation’s law enforcement departments need radical change. Today, four children are without a father, a mother without a son, a sister without a brother, and a community wondering how many more black lives will be destroyed before America stands up and says 'never again.' As the Department of Justice investigates this case, we must confront the racism embedded so deeply in police practices and demand change now."

The Southern Poverty Law Center is dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society. Using litigation, education, and other forms of advocacy, the SPLC works toward the day when the ideals of equal justice and equal opportunity will be a reality.

 

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