The shooting of Terence Crutcher in Oklahoma was the source of yet another chapter in the national media fixation on deadly force encounters between law enforcement and suspects. This one, however, had far more direct video than some previous instances which often come down to the word of a living police officer against a dead suspect. In other cases we’ve had poor quality cell phone video captured by some bystander at a distance or, if we’re lucky, the jumbled stream from a body camera worn by a cop charging into a dangerous situation. The Crutcher case was different. There were helicopters hovering over the scene, dash cameras running in cruisers and multiple witnesses. But even with all of that evidence there remains controversy over exactly when and why one cop pulled the trigger. Officer Betty Shelby is currently facing manslaughter charges resulting from the incident.
Now the results of an autopsy performed on Crutcher are in and at least one suspicion of the cops on the scene has been verified. Crutcher was high on a cocktail of drugs when his terminal encounter with law enforcement took place. (NY Daily News)
The unarmed man fatally shot by an Oklahoma police officer last month was high on PCP at the time, officials said Tuesday.
An autopsy report for Terence Crutcher released by the Oklahoma State Medical Examiner’s Office showed the 40-year-old man had ingested PCP and another hallucinogen called tenocyclidine, or TCP. Coroners also ruled that Crutcher, who was black, died from a gunshot wound to his chest listed as a homicide.
It seems that Crutcher wasn’t just “a little buzzed” at the time, either. The medical examiner described his condition as, “acute phencyclidine intoxication” which frequently leads the drug user to experience a number of symptoms ranging from paranoia and auditory or visual hallucinations to hostility and psychosis. This was a significant part of the initial debate over the shooting since Officer Shelby was listed as an expert in drug abuse symptom recognition and she was fearful of how Crutcher might react.
So does this have any impact on the case and the determination as to whether this was a justified use of lethal force? Not really. Suspicion of someone being on PCP is certainly grounds for officers to be on a heightened state of alert and bring more resources to bear in case the suspect becomes violent, but in the end, being high on a controlled substance is not grounds to shoot somebody. This case will still (or at least should) come down to a question of what Crutcher was doing at the moment Shelby pulled the trigger and if his actions looked sufficiently like an imminent threat to the officers or the public to warrant taking him down.
That remains a contested subject. I’ve read some commentary on both sides of the debate, with some saying he looked like he could have been reaching for a weapon while others decry that as nonsense. I suppose none of us will ever know for sure since we weren’t standing in Betty Shelby’s shoes that day. But at least to me it’s clearly dubious enough to warrant a trial and that’s precisely what’s going to take place. I’m sure they’ll bring up the PCP issue in court, but as I mentioned above, I’m not sure how much – if at all – that should impact the decision of the jury.