Tulsa police released video clips and audio files from Friday’s fatal shooting of Terence Crutcher to local community leaders on Sunday prior to their scheduled release to the public after a news conference Monday afternoon.
A pastor who saw the videos said he was appalled after seeing them but said the public should respond with reason and not violence. The local president of the NAACP also said he expects the public’s reaction to be “level-headed.”
Crutcher’s family also saw the files.
“We wanted them to see it before it was released so they wouldn’t be blindsided by it,” Tulsa Police Sgt. Shane Tuell said. “We wanted to be able to have that intimate time with them, with their attorney, to see if they had any questions or concerns.
“With something of this magnitude, we’re trying an approach that we believe is necessary to further that transparency,” Tuell said.
Among the group that saw the early release of the videos and audio was state Rep. Regina Goodwin, state Sen. Kevin Matthews, and a mixture of ministers and community activists.
The files are set to be released to the public after a news conference at 1:30 p.m. Monday.
Meanwhile, Tulsa police on Sunday released the names of the two officers involved in the shooting.
Officer Betty Shelby is the officer who discharged her duty weapon during the incident, police said. She was hired Dec. 1, 2011. Shelby has been placed on routine administrative leave with pay.
Officer Tyler Turnbough is the officer who deployed his Taser during the incident. He was hired Jan. 5, 2009.
Messages to a police spokeswoman regarding additional information about Shelby and Turnbough were not returned on Sunday.
Rodney Goss, a pastor at the Morning Star Baptist Church in north Tulsa, said he expects public outrage after seeing the videos.
“His hands were in the air from all views,” Goss said.
Goss and others were shown three videos: dash camera footage from two of the responding officers’ vehicles and footage from the police department’s helicopter camera.
From Goss’ perspective, he said, Crutcher failed to exhibit behavior that would potentially warrant being shot by a police officer.
The footage show’s Crutcher’s SUV parked in the middle of the road because it had broken down, Goss said. Crutcher is seen walking toward officers, seemingly seeking help. The videos later show Crutcher walking toward his vehicle, after which he was Tasered by one police officer and subsequently shot by another officer’s gun.
However, Goss said, Crutcher did not reach into his vehicle — he moves toward it without any apparent sudden movement.
“It was not apparent at any angle from any point that he lunged, came toward, aggressively attacked, or made any sudden movements that would have been considered a threat or life-threatening toward the officer,” Goss said.
Crutcher did not appear to have a weapon, Goss said.
Crutcher was Tasered and shot almost simultaneously, Goss said.
“It wasn’t a matter of minutes, it was a matter of moments, where as quick as the officer released the Taser from his hand, Terence was falling to the ground having already been shot,” he said.
However, the most disturbing part of the footage, Goss said, is not Crutcher being shot, but rather the moments directly after.
“After having been shot, a couple minutes it appears, but it seemed like a lifetime, went by before anyone actually checked with him as far as pulse — as far as whatever the case may be,” Goss said.
Goss said it was unclear if Crutcher fully heard or understood the officers’ commands to stop as he was walking toward his vehicle.
Police also released audio from the shooting. Goss said one of the men in the police helicopter can be heard clearly stating that Crutcher’s hands were up.
Goss said a man in the police helicopter can also be heard saying that Crutcher looked like “one bad dude.”
“There was a perception problem before there was ever a shooting,” Goss said.
Goss said he was shocked after seeing the videos.
“If he was simply seeking help, then why was there such an aggressive approach to him as if he had done something wrong?” he said. “We don’t have all the nuances and all the details, but to this point, there appears to be no negative connotations that would have warranted any aggression on the behalf of the police officers.”
Goss said he doesn’t know if any Tulsa Police Department policies or protocols were violated, because he does not know what that constitutes.
However, he said, there are still many questions to be answered.
Pleas Thompson, NAACP president, was also shown the videos, but did not go into detail about how he perceived the situation.
However, he expects the public’s reaction to be “level-headed” upon the release of the videos and audio at Monday’s news conference.
“I think the justice system will work here in Tulsa, because we’ve seen it work before,” Thompson said, referencing to the outcomes of the trial of former Tulsa County reserve deputy Robert Bates.
Goss commended the department’s efforts toward transparency. However, he feels, it may be too little, too late.
“It’s still after the fact,” Goss said. “It’s almost as if you feel like you’re being called in so that you can help clean up a mess that was made.”
The most important thing right now, Goss said, is to focus on enacting change to prevent these situations from happening in the future.
“It’s difficult to tell your people that it’s OK because the police department has it under control, when the police department in the eyes of much of the community are the proprietors of such an event,” Goss said.
But the answer is not violence, Goss said.
“We have to let justice take its course,” he said. “We have some who want to see the best come out of a bad situation. We have others who are simply looking for a reason to act bad. And then we have some who are so angry that they want this to be just affirmation that every negative opinion that they have of our justice system is confirmed.
“You can’t corral everyone when you have so many varying agendas and mindsets,” Goss said. “The only thing you can attempt to do is be the voice of reason and put something in place that will help your people vent, and that is safe and in a practical way that will hopefully help them deal with a situation that is very painful for the African-American community.”
“I’m pushing for not only a march or a meeting, I’m pushing for a seat at the table,” he said, “where we can affect change in the policies and the culture of the police versus the community.”
Damario Soloman-Simmons, attorney for the family of Terence Crutcher, did not return a request for a comment about the videos.