Culture

Outrage after videos show fatal shooting of unarmed black man

Technically Incorrect: Two videos -- one from a dashcam, one from a helicopter -- seem to show that Terence Crutcher had his hands in the air as four officers approached him. He had committed no crime.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


Terence Crutcher appears to walk away with his hands up.

Tulsa PD screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Every time one of these videos comes out, it incites incredulity and outrage.

Some police departments appear to withhold such videos for as long as they can.

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, however, police on Monday released two videos of Friday's fatal shooting by a police officer of Terence Crutcher.

One video is from a police dashcam. The other is from a police helicopter.

Each seems to show the same thing. Crutcher is seen walking toward his car, followed by police officers. He has his hands in the air.

Four officers surround him near his car. Suddenly, he falls and he is dead, reportedly shot by Officer Betty Shelby. Another officer had Tasered him. Shelby did not have a Taser.

No officer appears to try to assist him. Instead, the officers retreat and leave Crutcher's body lying in the road.

There is no evidence that Crutcher, 40, had committed a crime. His car was parked in the middle of the road and he needed help.

As the Tulsa World reports, there were contradictions between the police's original statements on Friday and the evidence provided by the videos.

"That was the initial information given to the Public Information office that was relayed to the media," a police department spokeswoman told me. "In any investigation, new details can arise after video footage, audio, and interviews are reviewed or completed."

She said the investigation isn't yet complete and that when it is, it will handed over to the District Attorney.

The police acknowledge that Crutcher wasn't armed and that no weapon was found in his car.

In a press conference on Monday, Police Chief Chuck Jordan said he found the videos "very disturbing" and very difficult to watch."

He promised justice.

Police revealed that they've already shown the videos to Crutcher's family. The Department of Justice is also opening an investigation into whether civil rights charges should brought.

In the helicopter video, police dispatch personnel can be heard describing Crutcher looking like "a bad dude."

It's just over a year ago that cell phone video of Walter L. Scott, a black man, being shot in the back by a white police officer in South Carolina numbed many. So many other incidents of an apparently similar nature keep on occurring.

Now, the hashtag #TerenceCrutcher is trending and full of incredulity and anger.

Some call for Shelby to be arrested.

"Another Black life and death reduced to a viral video on endless repeat and a hashtag. Arrest the @TulsaPolice," tweeted author Daniel José Older.

Some use this example as just one more reason why NFL players and others are protesting against the treatment of black people by police.

"Outraged when we take a knee. Silent when we take a bullet," tweeted Jac Wray.

Some wonder why the alleged New York bomber was captured alive, while an unarmed man who had appeared to do no wrong was shot dead.

Everette Taylor perhaps best summed up how many black people feel in this tweet: "avoided the #TerenceCrutcher video all day, knew it would ruin my spirits. even if I do everything right, I could still end up murdered."

This isn't the last video of its kind. It's just the latest.

What is seen and what is heard may not be the whole story. It seems, though, to be an encapsulation of much that disturbs so many.

This story originally published at 10 p.m. PT September 19.
Update, 8:55 a.m. PT September 20: Comment from Tulsa Police Department added.