Not the answer you’d expect from the law-and-order candidate under most circumstances, and not the answer the alt-righters in his base probably want to hear. At a black church, though, when he’s reaching out to black voters and straining to show the country that he can be “presidential”? Obviously the right answer politically. It’s the right answer on the merits too. His diagnosis of what happened in Crutcher’s shooting seems on the mark: The cop “choked” and fired in panic before making sure Crutcher really did have a weapon. In fact…
At a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Benjamin Crump — a civil rights lawyer who has represented many families of those killed in high-profile police shootings — said Terence Crutcher never reached his hands into the driver’s side window of his stalled sport-utility vehicle before he was shot by police.
Crutcher couldn’t have reached into the vehicle, Crump said, because enhanced photos of the vehicle taken from police video show that the window was rolled up.
If confirmed by police, the admission would eliminate one of the chief justifications for police using deadly force against Crutcher.
I’ve watched the helicopter video of the shooting again and can’t tell if the window was up or down. You can see into the car through that window area, but you can also see into it through the windshield. Some of the screencaps here seem to show Crutcher facing the door and leaning to his right, towards the cops, as if he was reaching through the window with his left arm, but I can’t tell for sure. Answering that question is a big deal, needless to say: If the window was up, it’s hard to imagine how the cop will argue that she thought he was reaching in for a weapon.
Critics asked a good question yesterday, though. What was going on at this scene involving an abandoned vehicle before the video started rolling that required no fewer than four cops and a police helicopter to document the incident? The lawyer for Betty Shelby, who fired the fatal shot, told reporters that Crutcher wasn’t cooperating with her initially and had behaved “erratically,” which might explain why she was jittery as Crutcher approached his car. The latest from Tulsa PD:
Police found PCP in the vehicle used by Terence Crutcher the night he was fatally shot by an officer, a Tulsa Police Department official confirmed to the Tulsa World on Tuesday afternoon.
The attorney for the Tulsa police officer who fatally shot Crutcher had said Monday that the officer, Betty Shelby, thought he was acting like he might be under the influence of that drug.
That might explain his behavior, but just because drugs were in the car doesn’t mean they were in him at the time. And if they were, that doesn’t get you much closer to self-defense. Cops deal with junkies all the time without shooting them. Crutcher was sufficiently composed to walk slowly back towards his car with his hands raised and he made no sudden movements while at the door. The best evidence that he said or did something to spook the cops that could conceivably justify a reasonable belief of imminent harm is the fact that one of the other cops at the scene tazed Crutcher just before Shelby shot him. But if you’re Shelby, that poses a problem too: Why didn’t she give nonlethal force a chance to work before pulling her pistol and firing?