The white Oklahoma police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man last week is under a federal investigation after the man’s family demanded she face criminal charges.
Now, Tulsa police Officer Betty Shelby’s work history and past conduct are under scrutiny as authorities probe whether the five-year department veteran acted within reason or was unjustified in the killing of 40-year-old Terence Crutcher.
Cameras captured the Sept. 16 incident in which Shelby, 42, and other cops were called to a broken down SUV in the middle of a road.
Shelby’s attorney, Scott Wood, told NBC News on Tuesday that Crutcher failed to listen to her commands when police arrived and he appeared to be under the influence of narcotics, possibly PCP. While Crutcher did have his hands up, he went to the side of his car — prompting Shelby to fire her gun and another officer to use his Taser simultaneously, Wood said.
The case is the latest involving the death of an African-American at the hands of police, and has attracted the attention of Black Lives Matter protesters who are calling for increased transparency into what happened. This much is known publicly about the officer involved.
Shelby’s husband, also a police officer, was seated in the helicopter that circled the area during the time of the shooting.
The Tulsa Police Department on Monday released aerial footage of the incident. The video includes Shelby’s husband, Dave Shelby, and an unidentified pilot telling each other that they believe the “black dude” in the scene was dangerous and “needed to be tasered” for not following commands.
Tulsa police spokesman Sgt. Shane Tuell later said that Dave Shelby wasn’t the person who commented on Crutcher’s appearance and called his presence in the area of the shooting a “happenstance” because his helicopter had not been assigned to that specific call.
Tuell also said the critical remarks about Crutcher weren’t heard by Betty Shelby because it wasn’t made over their radio communications.
The Crutcher family’s lawyer, Benjamin Crump, said at a news conference Tuesday that cameras captured Crutcher walking with his hands raised and that the car’s windows were also up, so he couldn’t have been reaching into his car for some sort of weapon.
Shelby is a drug-recognition expert and has admitted to previously using marijuana.
Wood said Shelby completed drug-recognition expert training and that she believed Crutcher was under the influence at the time of the encounter.
Tulsa Police Sgt. Dave Walker told the Tulsa World on Tuesday that investigators did recover a vial of PCP, the hallucinogen also known as Angel Dust, in his SUV.
Before her employment with the Tulsa police in 2011, Shelby was a deputy for the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office.
In her application with the sheriff’s office in 2007 — publicly disclosed Monday — she circled “yes” when asked whether she had “possessed and used illegal drugs” in the past. The sheriff’s office released a letter in which Shelby described using marijuana twice at age 18 during social gatherings.
Shelby was in the Oklahoma National Air Guard before going into law enforcement.
According to her police job application, Shelby left employment with the QuickTrip convenience store chain in 1999 to start a trainee program with the Oklahoma National Air Guard.
In May 2000, she became a female trainee of the Oklahoma National Air Guard, but left after spraining her knee.
She also had a brief stint as a teaching assistant in Tulsa schools from 2001-02 before pursuing a bachelor of science degree in biology at Northeastern State University in Oklahoma. She joined the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office in 2007.
Shelby had no disciplinary actions against her while working at the sheriff’s office.
Her superiors said she and other deputies in 2010 pulled guns on a man who was trying to hide while a felony warrant was being served. But there was no record of disciplinary action against her, they said.
In her job application with the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office in which she described her marijuana use, Shelby also said she had two previous domestic-related incidents involving the courts.
In 1993, she said, she and her then-boyfriend each damaged one another’s vehicles when they were breaking up. They had temporary restraining orders filed that were subsequently dismissed.
In 2002, she said, her ex-husband’s new wife filed a protective order claiming Shelby made harassing phone calls to her. The protective order was later denied, Shelby said in her application: “The Judge saw that I was not guilty of the accusations made against me … .”
Shelby has been praised for helping the community.
Tulsa police posted on Facebook when Shelby helped a couple named the Joneses locate their stolen property in August.
Shelby had “responded to gather information on the crime” and was able to retrieve the Joneses’ unspecified stolen property and return it to them. The Joneses presented Shelby with a bouquet of flowers as a mark of their gratitude, police said.