On Friday, September 16, a Tulsa, Oklahoma police officer shot and killed an unarmed man, Terence Crutcher, who appeared to have his hands raised above his head as he stood beside and facing his vehicle which stalled in the middle of the road.
The entire occurrence was preserved on video and shows at least three officers approaching with guns either drawn or about to be drawn. The officer who shot Mr. Crutcher claimed as her justification that Crutcher failed to follow orders — commands given by the officer, most probably in the now typical style of a drill sergeant. A police spokesperson gave this account:
“He refused to follow commands given by the officers. They continued to talk to him, he continued not to listen and follow any commands. As they got closer to the vehicle, he reached inside the vehicle and at that time there was a taser deployment, and a short time later there was one shot fired.”
Anyone who has seen the nationally televised video can readily spot the disparity between what it shows , and what the police say happened, as discussed in “A Toast to Silence“. What is particularly disturbing is the routine, almost rehearsed claim of the officers of an alleged act by Crutcher justifying the shooting by an officer in fear of his or her safety — in this instance, a factual impossibility, according to the always truthful camera. There is nothing about belligerence, being threatening, abusive, or combative on camera or from the spokesperson.
Equally disturbing is the military style, tone and vocabulary of the officer in a routine citizen encounter with someone showing no objective sign of a problem for any of the several officers present. The only circumstance of which I am aware, when summary execution (what this clearly was) is authorized, absent self defense, is actual desertion or cowardice in the face of the enemy during actual combat in time of war.
As in politics, with each successive discussion of what happened in Tulsa, and each explanation of the officer’s conduct, we hear more BS and more absurdity; the officer was a drug recognition expert, Crutcher had a prior record, he was reaching into his car (through its closed door and rolled up windows?) and he had PCP in the car. What do these things have to do with what the video shows Crutcher to be doing the moment he was shot to death in the presence of three or four back-up officers? The validity of this or any police shooting, like an arrest, search, or claim of self defense is measured at the moment of its inception, not by what is discovered afterward.
The police seem to have an inventory of excuses and prepared scripts they pick from to justify what the camera shows to be unjustifiable. These excuses have had a good track in court and with the public in the days preceding the video recording of today. I’ve seen their standard lingo in thousands of police narratives and reports over the last fifty years, before technology brought us the truth.
The cops’ lies and cover-ups are as bad as their offense. The officer here probably committed a criminal offense. That’s all the law requires to begin a criminal prosecution — probable cause. This is the perfect case to turn things around and begin criminal prosecution of criminal cops.
What goes beyond disturbing and reaches into the realm of disgusting is the difference between how the officer firing the single fatal shot was treated, compared to what would have happened to Mr. Crutcher if he had shot the officer, assuming the other officers present didn’t shoot him. The officer in this instance, it was reported, was placed on routine administrative leave, with pay. Crutcher would have been in immediate custody and charged with some degree of homicide. This is the obvious unfairness about which the minority communities complain, and protest.
Why is this routine? What should be routine is equal treatment of equals. The officer who shot Mr. Crutcher should have been taken into custody and charged, minimally with voluntary manslaughter, if not murder in the second degree, and have the issue settled and determined in open court by a judge and jury. Not doing so highlights what’s wrong with the system — patently unequal justice and this is what the minority communities feel and see because it’s real.
What’s wrong is secret investigations by biased in-house investigators (the police internal investigations department) which typically end with nothing more than a cash payout to the deceased’s family when the newsworthiness of the incident has subsided and maybe a slap on the officer’s wrist.
What’s wrong is the few bad apples are rotting the entire barrel. The few bad cops should be made examples of as they continue to demonstrate how dangerous are those with nothing to lose. Prosecuting the bad ones will improve the entire policing profession and the public’s view of them.
Stop the BS and begin the criminal prosecution of this officer NOW!