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Five years after the killing of Terence Crutcher by Tulsa police, the Terence Crutcher Foundation, in partnership with Human Rights Watch and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., held a news conference on Thursday, September 16, 2021, at 11 a.m. EST in Washington D.C.
The group announced a national coalition’s formal request for the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) to reopen and evaluate its investigation into the fatal shooting.
“Today, when I should be with my family, I am here, 1000 miles away fighting for justice for my twin brother,” Dr. Tiffany Crutcher said.
Sister seeks new investigation into killing of brother, Terence Sr.
September 16 marks five years since Tulsa police officer Betty Jo Shelby fatally shot Terence Crutcher, a 40-year-old Black father who was unarmed.
The police killing drew national condemnation and sparked an investigation by Human Rights Watch into policing in Tulsa.
Nevertheless, on March 1, 2019, the DOJ under the Trump administration announced that it would not file charges against Shelby in connection with the shooting.
Dr. Crutcher pleads for justice
“My brother was on the way home from school at our local community college. He was driving back to see his young children, to do a gospel music workshop with my parents at church,” Dr. Crutcher explained at the conference, detailing how Terence Sr.’s car stalled in the middle of the road before he could reach his destination.
Shelby, who was responding to a separate call, noticed Terence and pulled up to the scene. Dr. Crutcher said Terence needed help from a well-trained public servant, but instead he was gunned down, lying in a pool of blood on the ground. Though his hands were up, Shelby had claimed she feared he would reach in his car for a weapon, despite video evidence showing her shoot him with his hands up. Shelby then retreated to her car instead of rendering aid.
“Rather than uphold her oath and discharge her duty to protect and serve, she decided to discharge her weapon. She shot my brother, an unarmed Black father with his hands in the air in cold blood,” Dr. Crutcher said.
The Crutcher family, which has concerns regarding the integrity and independence of the DOJ’s review and the abrupt ending of its investigation, is requesting that the DOJ take action by conducting a full and thorough evaluation.
Speakers call on DOJ to re-investigate Crutcher’s death
- Tiffany Crutcher, founder and executive director of the Terence Crutcher Foundation.
- Ben Crump, civil rights attorney and co-counsel.
- Damario Solomon-Simmons, lead counsel for the Crutcher family.
- Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Educational Fund, Inc.
- Nicole Austin-Hillery, executive director of the US Program at Human Rights Watch.
Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who has represented dozens of police brutality victims, hosted the press conference outside his D.C. office.
“Terence Crutcher was walking away from the police with his hands up. His back was to police officer Betty Shelby. And it is inexplicable from that day to this one why he shot this unarmed Black man who was simply having car trouble,” Crump said at the beginning of the conference.
“He had committed no crime. But as often the case that we see far too many times in America, police shoot first and ask questions later when it’s unarmed Black people.
He, Dr. Tiffany Crutcher and the rest of the coalition are pushing for President Biden to reopen the investigation into Terence’s murder, along with calling on Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
The bill, which has languished amidst Republican opposition, would create a national database of police misconduct, end the use of chokeholds, create national standards for police use of force, and end qualified immunity, which allows officers to escape financial consequences for their misconduct.
A bipartisan working group comprised of Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) has so far failed to come to agreement on the issue of qualified immunity.
At Thursday’s press conference, a representative for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund echoed their support for the Crutcher family, calling on accountability five years after Terence Crutcher’s death at the hands of Betty Shelby.
“This department must ensure that it use all the tools available to it to provide that accountability. The Crutcher family, the city of Tulsa, and the country deserve nothing less,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Educational Fund, Inc.
Attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons has been representing the Crutcher family for five years. He also represents survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Dr. Crutcher’s grandmother, Rebecca Brown Crutcher, was a survivor of the traumatic event.
“We do not trust the investigation from the previous [Trump] administration. We cannot trust that they actually looked at this case,” Solomon-Simmons said at the conference.
When asked for his thoughts on the new internal advisory boards the Tulsa Police Department and Mayor GT Bynum have recently boasted, Solomon-Simmons said having the police monitor themselves isn’t real oversight.
“We do not believe the police should investigate themselves. They haven’t changed any policies or procedures that allowed Betty Shelby to murder Terence and then get away with it. In fact, it was the city of Tulsa that allowed their own police officers to attend trainings that Betty Shelby was giving after the shooting, basically able to talk about how to deal with shooting someone and get away with it,” Solomon-Simmons said.
Report highlights racial disparities in Tulsa policing
A representative for Human Rights Watch said the organization stands behind the Crutcher family in a pursuit for justice.
“The death of a Black man in the United States at the hands of a police officer is not just a civil rights issue, it’s a human rights issue,” said Nicole Austin-Hillery, executive director of the US Program at Human Rights Watch.
The organization released a damning report in 2019 that, among other things, that police officers are more likely to stop Black Tulsans and traffic stops of Black motorists tend to last longer and result more often in arrest.
For Dr. Tiffany Crutcher, ending qualified immunity through passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act should be non-negotiable. She had a conversation with Democratic Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia on Wednesday to gauge his support for the bill.
“I asked him unequivocally ‘where do you stand?’ Do you support the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. And he said ‘absolutely,’” Dr. Crutcher announced at Thursday’s press conference. She said Manchin told her he’d be meeting with Republican Senator Tim Scott next week to get an update.
“He said that something needs to be done. So I am counting on Senator Manchin and his leadership to make sure something gets done. We don’t need another George Floyd. We don’t need another Botham Jean. We don’t need another Breonna Taylor. We don’t need another Terence Crutcher. We need this policing act to get across the finish line,” Dr. Crutcher added.
Dr. Tiffany Crutcher has never faltered in the fight for justice for her brother and other families irrevocably harmed by trigger-happy police officers.
“God’s going to get the glory out of my life,” the late Terence Crutcher Sr. told his family shortly before his death.