Terence Crutcher

Terence Crutcher

Terence Crutcher.png

Lily Mackay, Social Media Editor

Terence Crutcher, an unarmed 40-year old black man, was shot by Betty Shelby, a white female police officer on this past Friday evening, September 16th. At approximately 7:30pm, two 911 calls were placed about an SUV blocking the street. One caller said that there was an abandoned SUV in the middle of the road while a man ran away from it saying it was going to blow up. The caller also stated “I think he’s smoking something.” The other caller said there was a still-running SUV in the middle of the road. The officer says into her radio: “I’ve got a suspect that won’t show me his hands,” although in the video Crutcher appears to have his hands up. She then tells him to get on his knees, which he refuses to do and instead walks towards the SUV. In the video, he then leans into his vehicle, at which point our view becomes obscured by other officers and then a shot is fired. Chaos ensues; the officer who fired the shot crumpled to the ground and Crutcher bleeds out in the street.  

Terence Crutcher’s family demands that the officer be charged with murder. Officer Shelby’s lawyer claims that she believed he was reaching in the car for a weapon, since earlier in the situation, police were told by a 911 caller that the man was saying the SUV was going to explode. Officer Shelby is also a drug-recognition expert and thought Crutcher was under the influence of drugs, possibly PCP, which was later found in his car. No weapons were found in the SUV. Since then, Officer Shelby has been charged with first-degree manslaughter and a warrant is out for her arrest.

Before jumping into the public forum of police vilification, there are a few questions we must ask. If this shooting was, as some believe, an act of pure racism, would the officer be brazen enough to commit such a horrific offense with the extensive police backup present at the time, not to mention the several videos that were being taken of the situation? And if she would be so foolishly bold, we should be able to find patterns of racism in how she had previously handled sensitive policing situations. That does not seem to be the case, though. Additionally, if it was such a simple case of an innocent man next to an abandoned SUV, why was there so much police backup?  Helicopters are not a usual presence for a routine stop. 

The Daily Caller noted the officer’s comments after the fact:

“I was never so scared in my life as in that moment right then,” officer Betty Shelby told the homicide detectives in an interview, according to her lawyer Scott Wood. She thought Terence Crutcher was reaching into his car for a weapon when she fired the shot, Wood maintains.

“As a police officer, you have to wonder — why would someone ignore commands at gunpoint to get to a certain location?” Wood told ABC News, regarding Crutcher’s actions in the moments before his death.

As Americans, we should mourn when an innocent life is taken and stand united together. However, people who immediately jump to conclusions about what happened and become part of the unintelligible noise being chucked from both sides of the aisle only serve to tear us farther apart. The collective social media mind appears to agree: this seems like a very bad shot. If that is proven to be the case, the officer can and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Due process is absolutely essential to situations like these, where the public court rushes in to assume the worst. Courts are instructed to view cases such as this one from the police officer’s point of view within the purview of the situation rather than in the hindsight of it. In this case, due process determined that Officer Shelby was in the wrong and she has now been charged accordingly. It is very easy to blame and point fingers while sitting behind a computer screen without having to be the person making that split-second decision of whether or not they should take someone else’s life to protect their own.

The question still stands: Why are people so willing to assume the worst in some cases but not others? Why is there a double standard? For example, there are those who refuse to even consider the possibility that a bomb going off in New York is an act of intentional terrorism because they say (before they are proven wrong by the facts) that it is much too early to make such an assumption, but if someone is shot by a police officer, they will make immediate assumptions without any facts or before due process even has time to run its course. See, jumping to conclusions is only convenient to these people when it further promotes their political agenda. But facts cannot fit into a political agenda that prevents us from standing together. In light of this shooting, the current political agenda automatically assumes that half of America is joyously celebrating rather than grieving this man’s untimely death. It also diminishes the validity of actual cases where someone is shot unjustly.  

Many instantly filed this situation under the “systemic racism” epidemic. The issue with that argument, however, is that while it appears to be morally superior, it does not take into account all the facts but rather exploits the initial shock of a situation. According to Business Insider, Roland G. Freyer found that there was no evidence of racial bias in situations where police fire their guns at civilians. Freyer, who had begun the study with the idea that he would find racial bias, told the New York Times: “It is the most surprising result of my career.” For one statistic we can all agree on to start: there is a disparity of how many blacks are killed by police. They make up about 13% percent of the population and are about 27% of police killings. But the numbers don’t end there, nor does this statistic take into account what is happening in these situations:  such as whether or not the person shot was attacking the officer or attempting to obtain a weapon.

ccording to Politifact.com:

Candace McCoy is a criminologist at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York. McCoy said blacks might be more likely to have a violent encounter with police because they are convicted of felonies at a higher rate than whites. Felonies include everything from violent crimes like murder and rape, to property crimes like burglary and embezzlement, to drug trafficking and gun offenses.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that in 2004, state courts had over 1 million felony convictions. Of those, 59 percent were committed by whites and 38 percent by blacks. But when you factor in the population of whites and blacks, the felony rates stand at 330 per 100,000 for whites and 1,178 per 100,000 for blacks. That’s more than a three-fold difference.

ll statistics aside, it doesn’t take away from the tragedy that is when a human life is taken prematurely. As people and as Americans, we grieve collectively for the death of Terence Crutcher, for his family, and we pray that justice will be served. We send our prayers for everyone involved in the situation moving forward, including the police officer who has to live forever with what happened, and continue to pray that we would be able to reach over our differences in order to stand together.  

Follow this author on Twitter @LMackay514 

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