Revisited: The Terrance Crutcher Incident

Editor’s Note:  Detective Chelsea Whitaker discussed the Terrence Crutcher Shooting involving Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby within a week of the incident.  It was one of our most discussed articles and now, after Officer Shelby was acquitted, Detective Whitaker has a followup to that original article:


The following is my opinion based on information made available to me.

The jury was correct in finding Officer Betty Shelby not guilty for killing Terrance Crutcher. This finding is pretty much consistent with my first post that I made about this topic prior to having any facts. I will not restate all of those detailed explanations again, but feel free to read that narrative if you would like to do so. I will add some insight resulting from statements made during the trial. Court documents have not been released at this point and I would rather wait until they become public record, but too many people are asking me about this case again so I will give an updated opinion based on the witness statements released and statements made by Lori Fullbright, who is a reporter for News 6 in Tulsa. She was inside of the courtroom and posted updates after each day of the trial. I messaged her to confirm some things and she was gracious enough to respond to me.

The main factor in determining Officer Betty Shelby’s innocence or guilt was the position of the window. If the window would have been in the up position, I would have believed that she accidentally fired her weapon because of hearing someone next to her fire a taser. In incidents when officers accidentally fire their weapons, this is one of the main circumstances in which this happens. The jury believed that Officer Turnbough fired his taser and Officer Shelby fired her gun at the same time. This evidence dismisses the theory that she possibly accidentally fired her weapon upon hearing a taser discharge next to her.

The window was down. The prosecution and defense agreed that the window was down. The jury agreed that the window was down and that Terrance Crutcher reached inside of the window. A detective testified that at full extension, the window measured 22 inches. During the shooting, the window was raised only 10 inches. The window was down. The family attorney made numerous statements to the media as soon as the incident occurred. I don’t blame him for doing so. He enlarged a picture claiming that it was proof that the window was completely up. The nation became enraged and took that statement as fact. It was proven to be false. I am not mad at them for doing so because it is common practice for attorneys to gain control of the media early in incidents such as this one. It is his job to advocate for his client, but he was wrong. I also think it was tacky for Betty Shelby to do the media interview prior to the beginning of the trial. As with the Crutcher family attorney, I respect her right to go to the media, but I still think it was tacky.

I will not repeat my long narrative about engaging with people on PCP. You can reread it if you like, but in summary, it isn’t a good idea. If you don’t believe me, you can read the story and watch the video about the female Chicago police officer who had her head smashed into the concrete by a man high on PCP. She should have killed him, but she didn’t because she did not want to be criticized by the entire country for her actions. Her partner tased the suspect and that sent him into a deeper rage. He began to pull her hair from her scalp and bang her head against the concrete. Her partner continued to tase him repeatedly and it had no effect on the suspect. It took several officers to finally free the female officer from the suspect’s grip. My experience, as well as any other officer who has dealt with people high on PCP, tells me that using a taser isn’t a good option when trying to subdue people on PCP.

Even with all of that said, it is still worth it to try and use the taser if it is safe to do so. When people are mentally ill and/or high on PCP, sometimes tasers aren’t as effective and it simply makes the person angry. I would never recommend anyone to deploy a taser on a person who is suspected to be mentally ill or high, unless there is another officer there with a gun drawn just in case the situation escalates. That way, one person can use the taser and if it does not work, the other person has a gun ready. When an officer deploys a taser and it doesn’t work, the officer must re-holster the taser and transition to their gun before a suspect engages them. If an officer drops their taser and someone else picks it up, the officer is accountable for whatever that person does with the taser. Again, this job is impossible. If the suspect is in somewhat of a docile state, an officer might be able to safely deploy a taser alone, but I do not find that option favorable. In the case with Terrance Crutcher, I don’t believe that Betty Shelby should have had her taser out while she was alone with him. She called for assistance over the radio and there was no doubt in my mind that she would have been comfortable holding him at gunpoint until assistance arrived. He changed the circumstances by trying to get inside of the vehicle.

I don’t blame civilians for not understanding something that doesn’t apply to them. If you are not an officer, you don’t understand the danger of deploying a taser while alone with a suspect high on PCP. The jury agreed that Betty Shelby acted consistent with her training in the moment that she shot Terrance Crutcher, but they wondered if she could have done something different prior to the shooting. Some jurors wondered if she could have holstered her weapon and tried to tase him in the moments before he reached the vehicle. Under no circumstance can I imagine tasing a suspect while alone with a suspect as large as Crutcher, high on PCP and behaving erratically. It makes sense for the jurors to wonder why she didn’t tase him sooner, but it makes no sense to an officer, who has dealt with a person on PCP, for them to holster a gun and try to tase someone high on PCP.

That juror that made those comments that he didn’t believe that Shelby should be an officer again is entitled to his opinion. I am sure Betty Shelby doesn’t want to be in patrol again anyway. I find it difficult to value his opinion as he obviously has no law enforcement experience. It is unnerving for citizens to judge the actions of law enforcement officers because they can’t relate to the job. After the Trayvon Martin trial, in which George Zimmerman should have been found guilty, I heard a juror give an interview. She was a white woman who appeared as if she had never been in a fight in her life and was clearly oblivious to the realities of others. I don’t know if that woman was racist or not so I won’t speak about that. I saw genuine confusion in her face when she stated that she couldn’t understand why Trayvon continued to punch George Zimmerman after he overpowered him. That statement blew my mind. She had difficulty understanding why a person would keep fighting a person who produced a gun and attacked them for no reason at all! This woman and numerous other cases prove why it is imperative to have a jury “of your peers.” I don’t think it is fair to have a jury full of officers because officers have proven that they can’t always be fair in judging their own, but hearing some of the statements made by jurors can be scary. There isn’t a clear answer to this problem. Statements from jury members always shock me, but I rarely give them much weight when they are speaking on issues that they have never encountered in their lives. Their job is to apply the law and that’s it.

Officer Turnbough
He was the officer who arrived with the taser just before Crutcher reached into his vehicle. He stated that the hair on the back of his neck stood up because of Crutcher’s behavior. He didn’t have the time to process his behavior like Betty Shelby. Shelby stated over the police radio that she had a guy who would not show her his hands. That is very alarming for an officer to hear, but she didn’t have time to broadcast that I believe I have a guy high on PCP and describe his behavior. If she had time to do all of that, Officer Turnbough may have fired his taser as soon as he exited his vehicle. He didn’t have that information and he was still trying to process the situation. Officer Turnbough stated that he fired his taser when he saw Crutcher reach into the vehicle. Betty Shelby stated that she fired her gun when he reached into the vehicle. Turnbough stated that he was trained not to let suspects get back into vehicles. Fullbright reported that the prosecutor asked Officer Turnbough how often he finds hidden guns on suspects and he responded by stating 10% – 30 % of the time. The defense jumped on that mistake by asking him how many times does a suspect have to have a gun in which he could be killed and he replied only once.

Terrance Crutcher’s Vehicle
Per Fullbright, witnesses who encountered Crutcher testified that the engine and the radio were running when they encountered Crutcher during this incident. A full diagnostic test showed that Terrance Crutcher’s vehicle was fully operational. I am not surprised about that because as I fully detailed in my prior narrative about this case, there was nothing about the placement of his vehicle that signaled that he had car trouble. It is extremely consistent for people that are high on PCP to think that their car will blow up and feel the need to jump out of it quickly. The family claimed that Terrance Crutcher simply had car trouble and needed help. As an officer, I know that some family members are emotional because they lost a loved one and it is human nature to defend that loved one at all costs. Some officers do the same thing when an officer is completely wrong. The family wasn’t there and I find it difficult to believe that they knew that he had car problems when they weren’t there with the vehicle.

Witnesses
2 of the 3 witnesses were black. None of the witnesses knew each other or anyone else involved with the case.

Male Witness
He stated that Crutcher was acting “unnatural and zombie-like.” He stated that he was afraid that he might get carjacked, so he decided to leave the scene. His wife thought that he might have medical problems.

Woman #1
She got out to help Crutcher. She asked him if he needed help three times and he didn’t answer. He just mumbled something under his breath. She stated that Crutcher ran to his car and opened the door and asked her to come to the car several times. She thought he possibly had a gun. Crutcher yelled “it was about to blow” and chased her to her car. She left because of his behavior. After she called 911, she returned and he was screaming “it is on fire, it is on fire.”

Woman #2
She stated that he seemed upset and he was yelling that his car was on fire. She stated that he was sweating and that his behavior sent chills up her spine. This is the same feeling that Officer Turnbough had when he encountered Crutcher that night.

First Incident with an Officer
During a prior incident with police, Crutcher refused commands to stop walking away from the officer. He also refused to show his hands and get on the ground. The officer tased Crutcher twice. He behaved this way while the officer had a rifle pointed at him. These officers had the ideal scenario in which to operate a taser safely. This is irrelevant as it relates to Shelby, but it shows how he consistently did not follow instructions from law enforcement.

I don’t believe criminal history should be allowed in trial because I understand the affect it can have on jurors. I am explaining what has been revealed to those reading this so that you can understand how bizarre his behavior was and how it wasn’t an anomaly.

Second Incident with an Officer
Another officer witnessed Crutcher fire a gun through a window. Even after seeing that, the officer didn’t shoot Crutcher. He ordered him out of his vehicle and Crutcher made a movement towards his right ankle. The officer was still able to apprehend him without killing him. When his ankle was searched, Crutcher had a .25 caliber pistol in his sock.

Third Incident with an Officer
Crutcher had another incident where he was tased several times because he refused to show his hands to an officer. Crutcher’s father showed up at the scene and admitted that his son had an “ongoing problem” with PCP. His family knew that he was an addict. I am not judging him for being an addict because we all have them in our families. I am an advocate for getting them help and supporting their efforts to turn their lives around. I don’t doubt that Crutcher was changing his life, but if you have an addict in your family, you know that they typically go through several relapses before they are able to remain sober. It appears that he had several encounters with police in which they were able to subdue him without shooting him. The longer a person plays with fire, the more likely the person will eventually get burned. Terrance Crutcher had a history of playing with fire because he had a history of refusing to comply with orders given to him by officers and he was battling addiction to PCP. That is a toxic combination. His final refusal cost him his life.

Family / Attorney Statements
Crutcher’s representatives stated that he did nothing wrong. There isn’t an officer reading this that doesn’t repeatedly encounter people that try to tell them that they haven’t done anything wrong. Crutcher did do something wrong. He parked his vehicle in the middle of the street blocking traffic, he was intoxicated in public, he ran around in a public street and he did not comply with an officer’s commands. That makes him a criminal and that means he did something wrong. She gave him repeated loud verbal commands to stop and to not enter the vehicle and he disregarded them. Civilians do not get to determine which rules they will follow and if they think the offense is substantial enough that they should comply. He did something wrong. You may find that these violations are minimal, but combined with his behavior, Betty Shelby had no way of knowing his intentions and a reasonable officer under the same circumstances would have responded the same way.

Rookie Incident
As a rookie officer, I was driving to answer a call when I noticed a guy behaving strangely in a parking lot. I just finished training and didn’t know ANYTHING about being an officer. He kept running around his vehicle and shuffling items inside of his vehicle. I stopped and asked him if he needed some help. He didn’t answer me. I was a rookie and far from comfortable commanding a scene and making decisive actions. I didn’t use an authoritative voice while talking to him either. Many rookie officers are uncomfortable detaining people unless there is an obvious offense such as murder. I was thinking that he might be mentally ill, but I wasn’t sure and I didn’t control him. I let him reach in and out of his vehicle several times. The last time he reached into his vehicle, he removed a worn Bible, handed it to me and continued to run around the vehicle. I was so confused and wished that I never stopped in the first place. Eventually, a veteran officer saw the situation and he came over to assist me. The veteran officer was a dark skinned, older, white male with a bushy mustache. He looked like an extra from the movie Tombstone. I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t ecstatic that he was there. I was an idiot and knew nothing about police work.

The veteran officer asked me what was going on and I told him. He kept his eyes on the strange man the entire time he talked to me. Before I could finish explaining the situation, the veteran officer screamed at the man to stop and get away from the vehicle. I don’t even remember the veteran officer drawing his weapon, but like most rookies, he had his out so I took mine out, totally confused about what we were doing with our guns out. The veteran officer ordered the man to get on the ground. He didn’t get onto the ground so the veteran officer ordered me to put him on the ground and handcuff him. Again, I was a total idiot and I was putting him on the ground like I was helping my grandmother into a beach chair. The veteran officer holstered his weapon and put the man on the ground himself. He put the man in the back of his vehicle and then he told me to go look inside the strange man’s driver’s side window. I didn’t see anything. The veteran officer could have been a jerk to me, but he chose to teach me how to be a good officer instead. Then he told me to sit in the passenger seat of the strange man’s vehicle. All I remembered was how the air conditioning was hitting my face as I was exhausted from the Texas heat. The veteran officer walked around to the driver’s side window and stood there. He asked me again if I saw anything and I said no. He shook his head, but gave me a warm smile as if he was calling me an idiot in his head, but he didn’t want to break my spirit. He looked at me for about 10 seconds and I began to look all around the car and couldn’t see anything.

Then I saw it. I clinched my butt cheeks so tightly that I almost caught a cramp. There was a pistol wedged between the door and the door handle. After my life flashed before my eyes, I began to replay how I let him casually reach into that window several times. I couldn’t believe that he chose to hand me his Bible instead of a mouth full of lead. The veteran officer walked away as I am sure he knew that I needed a minute to be alone. I felt like a toddler in time out who was told to think about their actions. My law enforcement experience grew exponentially that day. I decided to get out of the vehicle and the veteran officer took me over to the rear of his vehicle as he began to speak with the strange man. The strange man was sobbing in the back seat. The veteran officer asked him what was wrong and the man told him that he suffered from severe depression and that his wife left him and took his kids. The veteran officer continued to speak with him and calmed him down. The strange man began to tell the veteran officer how he thought about killing himself and he thought about killing the police. He continued to ramble about other things, but my mind stopped working after he said that he thought about killing the police. Slowly, I realized that I was the police and therefore he thought about killing me. I just knew that wasn’t what I just heard. While he was talking, I blurted out “what the fuck did you just say?” He repeated that he thought about killing himself and the police, then he continued to casually talk as if he didn’t just say that.

The veteran officer smirked and looked at me as if to say yea he was talking about you stupid rookie, but he didn’t say that to me. I walked off and sat back inside the strange man’s vehicle because I needed his air conditioning again. I don’t know why I didn’t get in my own vehicle, but I made his vehicle my thinking chair. The veteran officer knew that I was done for the day and I assume he planned for someone else to take the strange man to the hospital for evaluation. The veteran officer explained to me the importance of officer safety. He told me how I should never let a suspect reach inside of a vehicle. I told him that I knew something was wrong, but I wasn’t sure what exactly he did wrong, so I wasn’t comfortable controlling him. He told me that he understood that, but it could have cost me my life. He explained to me how officers can be wrong about a person as long as a reasonable officer in the same circumstances could come to the same conclusion. I learned a valuable lesson that day. I don’t even remember the veteran officer leaving me there. It was like he mounted a horse and rode off into the sunset or something. All officers have endless stories of how they could have died. Those stories form the basis for why officers do some of the things that they do. They also create the distance between the reality of officers and that of civilians.

If the window of the vehicle was closed and Terrance Crutcher simply pulled on the door handle. He would still be here today. If Terrance Crutcher would have run around in circles, and never attempted to reach into the vehicle, he would still be here today. If he would have walked down the road with his hands in the air, he would be here today. He changed the circumstances when he reached into the vehicle. Period.

I am aware of the story of the juror who said that he voted not guilty so that he could leave because he was tired and hungry. That was irresponsible on his part, but it still does not change the facts of the case. It is tragic that Terrance Crutcher is dead, but his own actions lead to his death. Officers do not have to wait until a gun is pointed in their direction before they defend themselves. If that were the case, no one would be officers.

Standard for Judging Excessive Force
The standard used to determine if an officer’s actions are excessive come from the Supreme Court Case Graham v. Connor. The Supreme Court ruled that “the Fourth Amendment ‘reasonableness’ inquiry is whether the officers’ actions are objectively reasonable in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation. The reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, and its calculus must embody an allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the amount of force necessary in a particular situation. The reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on scene, rather than with 20/20 vision or hindsight.”

If this were not the case, there would be no officers period! This job is impossible. It is easy to watch a horrific incident on television and scream at the person living the horror and tell them what they should do to survive, when you already know if the suspect had a gun or not. The court recognizes this truth. The most important words in this statement by the court are that the acts are judged “from the perspective of a reasonable officer on scene.” That means that it is not judged by everyone at home who has never been in similar situations. That means that it isn’t judged by a prosecutor or defense attorney who gets paid to prove differently. That means that it isn’t judged by a juror’s opinion who wants to go home early. That even means that all the officers with opinions at home bickering about the case don’t matter either. The single most important question is what would a reasonable officer do that was on scene during the incident? She immediately told the dispatcher that she shot him. She didn’t try to cover up the incident or anything like that. She was confident in her observations. Even when people made comments to the media stating that the window was up, she stood by her statement that the window was down. A reasonable officer would shoot Terrance Crutcher under these circumstances after reaching into the vehicle.

As usual, if you have a question or don’t understand something and you can ask without being disrespectful, please ask. If you are an officer and can answer some of the questions without being disrespectful, please do so.

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9 Comments

  1. Jaime Andres Pretell

    After seeing her interview, she got away with manslaughter and should be doing time. She typecast him based on his size.
    At that time, non of his priors were available as she had not ID’d him. So they are irrelevant to her stste of mind. Said he looked zombie like standing motionless (mental state), hands down , chin tucked, not a threat. First is stereotyping andrest are all indications for critical response team, if any type of intervention thought necessary. She already looked into car and saw no weapons. So quick access to a weapon was not there. She immediately assumed he was looking for a weapon based on ‘past experience’ stereotype. What was an obvious other conclusion was that he was not understanding instructions and automatically was trying to get ID.
    Zombie like state, foggy brain, Cop saying something, where is my ID? Pocket. Not there? Let me get it. No clue what she is saying. He reached in pocket and pulled nothing out and without responding intelligently to commands raised hands.
    He is obviously aware of police presence and complying, but seems not ti be comprehending verbal commands. Other officers arrived. They should have secured perimeter and wait for critical response team or other specialized response, or tazer the man and incapacitate. It was quite clear he was mentally handicapped at time, whether biologically or chemically induced, and her immediate reaction was that he was violent even though she stated there was no indication of it. Her only claim was that he was big, zombie like and not responding to instructions. She automatically profiled him as getting ready to get a gun and shoot her, even before he reaches into the car. A car she already looked into and saw no readily available gun.
    http://www.cbsnews.com/news/terence-crutcher-unarmed-black-man-shooting-60-minutes-2/

    This is completely different than Zimmerman. Zimmerman was properly reporting to the police, there is no indication he started the confrontation and Rachel Jeantel clearly states that Martin made it back to the rear of the house he was staying at. This coincides with Zimmerman’s statement that Martin ran away. The fight did not occur near the rear of the house he was staying at but at the T near Zimmerman’s truck where the flashlight was found. That is clear evidence Martin made it to a place that would be considered safe, if he truly was in some sort of fear, and instead of going in, returned to the T to confront Zimmerman. Rachel Jeantel further stated in a later interview that she thought Martin actually threw the first punch, further indication that Martin was prone to fighting. That Martin kept on beating up Zimmerman, had nithing to do with his gun, as John White the only actual witness to the fight, never mentioned any gun in view or Martin saying anything about a gun. In fact, all he saw was Zimmerman screaming for help. Martin kept on beating Zimmerman up for another minute. So the gun was not in play when Zimmerman was assaulted and mounted. Zimmerman’s on description of shrimping to try to move away from the cement also indicates how Martin later would realize Zimmerman had a gun. Shrimping means you go to your side and push on the legs of the person mounting. This action would expose any sidearm at the hip. And once Martin was aware of the gun, it no longer was just a life and death scenario from a possible concussion, but the risk that the assailant, Martin, could take away the gun and use it on Zimmerman.

    The author got it wrong on both counts.

    • LegalBeagle

      In no way, shape, manner or form was he complying. Not seeing a firearm or other weapon does not mean it was not there. There is no time for a crisis response team in such a situation – we’re talking about portions of a second in which to decide and act. Had there been no car, had he not tried to get back in it in this manner, then there probably would have been time for other options. Circumstances dictate tactics, and Mr. Crutcher created the bad circumstances leading to his death. It was preventable, but only by him.

      • Jaime Andres Pretell

        Was he aggressive? No, was he twitchy? No. It was clear thst he couldn’t comprehend instructions to comply. The same reason a deaf guy got shot. That is what crisis intervention and other similar programs are there for. Wait for back up. He wasn’t running or moving fast, what about circling and pointing the gun at him while blocking access to the car. Even if he doesn’t seem to comprehend words he definitely would undertsand not in gun direction. Fact is a huge amount of cop killings are of mentally handicaped people. Psycholgically or chemically, and many were not acting violently. And many probably couldn’t comprehend commands to comply. If the only solution to not complying to instructions is wait till they do a movement that might be interpreted as reaching for something to go ahead and shoot, that is the wrong answer. And in her interview, she says that when she saw his face, 1. She assumed he was on PCP and he would be violent, 2. She assumed he would reach for a gun. Both assumptions made before he approached the window of his car. She already had the mindset to shoot him before he reached for the window. So no, she shouldn’t have walked free.

        • LegalBeagle

          You are applying a flawed analysis in multiple ways. The first is that you are avoiding the legal standard.

          Police officers get to control their professional encounters. This may mean among other options using our presence; threatening the use of force, or imposing physical control against the wishes of the subject. The law is clear, and has been this way for several decades. “The risk of harm to both the police and the occupants is minimized if the officers routinely exercise unquestioned command of the situation.” Michigan v. Summers, 452 U.S. 692, 702-703 (1981). This is true in any non-consensual encounter. Brendlin v. California, 551 U.S. 249, 258 (2007)(citations omitted). The statutes of most if not all states have the same effect.

          Understand, also, that cops have a duty to take action. “Other than random attacks, all such cases begin with the decision of a police officer to do something, to help, to arrest, to inquire. If the officer had decided to do nothing, then no force would have been used. In this sense, the police officer always causes the trouble. But it is trouble which the police officer is sworn to cause, which society pays him to cause and which, if kept within constitutional limits, society praises the officer for causing.” Plakas v. Drinski, 19 F. 3d 1143, 1150 (7th Cir. 1994). Law Enforcement is not a people pleasing business; it is a coercive compliance business. The ugly nature of the lawful use of force is a fact, but “ugly” and “unreasonable” are not at all synonymous. The offender may be hurt because of his or her own actions, but any outrage must be directed at the offender, not the police officer who is fulfilling his or her duty.

          The actual standard for the use of force is simple, and a matter of constitutional law; analytically the use of force is a form of seizure under the 4th Amendment. The officer must be “reasonable” under the circumstances. Being factually correct is not the standard, nor would it be sound. (And this standard is based on and virtually identical to the standard for civilians acting in self-defense.) Whatever the offender is in any other portion of their life, and before the moments leading up to the use of force, is simply not relevant to the analysis unless a history of violence is known to the officer(s). There are occasional events that have been revealed to be truly unfortunate, the result of facts that were not what they reasonably appeared at the time. Sad, tragic and many other adjectives apply to such events, and they are understandably traumatic to all involved, including the officers. That does not make the officers’ conduct “wrong”. All that matters is the officers’ perception and conduct at the time force is used, assessed through the insight and experience of the officers involved.

          “The ‘reasonableness’ of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight. See Terry v. Ohio, supra, at 392 U. S. 20-22. The Fourth Amendment is not violated by an arrest based on probable cause, even though the wrong person is arrested, Hill v. California, 401 U. S. 797 (1971) … ”
          Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396 (1989). The test is not based on hindsight, the ugliness of any significant use of force, or the ignorance of reporters, friends of the offenders, or others unqualified to assess the matter. “The calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments — in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving — about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.” 490 U.S. at 396-397.

          Next: the sad truth about the mentally ill is that not one place in the US of which I have ever heard has a decent system. In fact, they suck. The biggest single provider of MH case in this country in correctional facilities as a whole. That is sick, obscene, wrong, and not the fault of the cops, prosecutors, defense bar, judiciary, or corrections personnel. Trust me, we are some of the loudest voices in pointing it out. This is entirely the fault of legislative bodies. We need institutions for the dangerous that are not overcrowded, underfunded, and sometimes staffed with some questionable stuff. We need useful support structures for those who can function in society with support. None of the stuff exists.

          Further, while there can be similarities between the mentally ill and some drug effected individuals, they are not the same. I’ve dealt with some mentally ill folks in the street and in the courtroom. A small number were dangerous. The fact that they are dangerous IS ALL THAT MATTERS. The safety of cops and uninvolved civilians is and must be the priority over the safety of any offender, regardless of why they are dangerous. “The question was not, as the district judge believed, Pena’s actual mental state. That was irrelevant to the reasonableness of Leombruni’s action in shooting him – as would be obvious had Leombruni been in danger of being seriously injured not be Pena but by Pena’s dog. Very little mentation is required for deadly action. A rattlesnake is deadly but could not form the mental state required for conviction of murder. Whatever Pena’s mental problems (apparently he was high on cocaine), they were not such as to prevent him from beating Leombruni’s brains out with a chunk of concrete. Leombruni was entitled to defend himself whether or not Pena, had he assaulted him, and been prosecuted for the offense, would have been acquitted on the ground of insanity.” Pena v. Leombruni, 200 F. 3d 1031, 1034 (7th Cir. 1999).

          Here, Mr. Crutcher acted like a person on PCP (go re-read both this article by Sr. Cpl. Whitaker and her original). Cops see stuff most people never see, and assess them in ways that make no sense to people who have not seen them and been placed in extreme danger as a result of those things. He was directly non-compliant, and whether or not a firearm or other potentially dangerous or deadly weapon was subsequently found is not relevant. Period. She did not “assume” – she made a reasoned analysis based on perceptions and experience that most people do not have, and faster than they could. Portions of seconds matter here.

          The injustice here is not that Mr. Crutcher died. It is that an incompetent or dishonest prosecutor made a charging decision that is not even arguably based on the law and facts. I firmly hope that he is disbarred just as Nifong was, and Mosby should be, but I have little faith in the Bar investigators to do the right thing.

  2. LegalBeagle

    The irrelevant and quite possibly incorrect commentary about the Martin/Zimmerman incident are truly unfortunate.

    The rest of this article is excellent. It has been clear from the start your analysis was excellent; far better than the mindless drivel and misconduct from the DA. I can see no basis upon which it can be asserted that the DA should be allowed to keep his license; he is of the same ilk as Nifong and Mosby. The dereliction of duty at the top of TPD in failing to address the DA’s conduct and support Office Shelby by explaining the law and readily apparent facts as rapidly and aggressively as possible should have resulted in brutal discipline.

    The family’s lawyer lied in the course of the representation of the client, and there is little question that he knew or should have known he was lying. This is also a Bar discipline issue. It is also far too common, showing in reported cases such as Scott v. Harris (at least SCOTUS called out counsel), and in many cases across the country in which LE does the job correctly and is subjected to utter fabrications. Th failure of LE counsel to take appropriate action, and the failure of the judiciary and Bar to take action on their own, is shameful, and detrimental to the system. It contributes to the corrosive damage to society and the continued ignorance of the average citizen.

    Officer Shelby should never have appeared on TV. Period. I have no idea if her counsel knew of or approved that stunt, but no reasonable person could assert it was a good idea. Perfectly understandable, considering the abuse and lies to which she has been subjected, but utterly poor judgment. The correct but difficult answer is a short statement that reflects the law and the misconduct of the DA and those about Officer Shelby.

    Law school? It’s a choice, and I am sure you will do yourself proud, but the main thing I got out of law school was a disgust for the intellectual weakness of the majority of my peers. After almost 30 years, my loathing for most lawyers and their conduct has been compounded, and now extends to a substantial portion of the trial level judiciary. I regularly see (and have been more than once targeted by) lawyers who lie to judges and the press, and judges who are incapable of even perceiving, let alone controlling, their conduct. When a career prosecutor such as myself is seeing defense attorneys who are too lazy and lousy to do a good job of representing their clients, and I see it as at best a significant minority of them, that’s a bad sign.

  3. Jaime Andres Pretell

    She got it wrong on Zimmerman and she got it wrong on Shelby.

  4. thebeeishorrid

    She did a GREAT job on this article, until she wrote that Zimmerman should’ve been found Guilty.

    Only a moron that knows nothing about that case would say that.

  5. Bo

    Bravo, Ma’am … But, please, do not waste your talents at law school! [PS: I am a cop turned lawyer … should have kept my soul.]

  6. Samuel Fivey

    You are emerging as an amazing advocate for the profession. Thank you.

    Some thoughts …

    While the attorney’s job is to advocate for her or his client, they also have a duty of candor (honesty) to the tribunal. When these attorneys lie without consequence about the circumstances and facts there is irreparable damage being done to the community, the officer(s), and the process. If they do not know something to be factual, then they need to cease talking about that point until the facts emerge. Should they be incapable of doing that then significant sanctions need to be applied. The rage and drama being caused by the illiterati (no, not a typo) is poisoning the discourse to a degree that we might not recover from it.

    Whether I agree or not is immaterial but I understand Officer Shelby’s willingness to give the media an interview. At some point, one can no longer tolerate the lies and hatred. This leads to a desire to defend ones self in the court of public opinion. Want to prevent it? Agencies and association must come forward and educate while the Court addresses the attorneys.

    As a trainer and supervisor my biggest concern is what did not happen afterward. To me, and the jurors, it appears the use of deadly force was justified. Once sufficient officers arrived why did they not go forward and secure Crutcher, search him, and begin treating his wounds. Once there are enough of us on scene to do that, we need to.

    Again, thank you for the effort you are putting into these pieces of yours.

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