Anatomy of an Officer’s Defense in a High-Profile Shooting Pt. 2

By Attorney Scott Wood

(Republished with permission from forcescience.org. Click here to read Part 1.)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Last September in a volatile case that drew international attention, Betty Shelby [above], a white police officer in Tulsa, OK, was charged with first-degree manslaughter for fatally shooting an uncooperative black man she thought was reaching into his SUV for a gun to use against her. No weapon was found, and Shelby was accused by the county DA of having “unlawfully and unnecessarily” over-reacted while emotionally “overwhelmed by fear.” Police Atty. Scott Wood, a Force Science graduate and faculty member, engineered her defense in a trial conducted last May, as Shelby faced the possibility of life in prison.

The day after Betty Shelby gave her official account of the shooting to Tulsa PD, Atty. Scott Wood found a voice-mail message on his office phone, left by an anonymous caller.

The day before the fateful encounter with Shelby, the voice said, the dead man had been “shooting up the street” in another Tulsa neighborhood. “Check it out,” the caller advised. Wood’s investigator Mike Huff, a retired homicide detective, did.

Frightened witnesses reluctantly admitted that a black male fitting the suspect’s description—apparently very intoxicated or drugged up—had fired randomly in the air on their block and had dropped his gun as he ran off.

To Wood’s mind, this suggested an answer to a provocative question being hammered in protest of the shooting. No weapon was found inside the man’s SUV after Shelby shot him, so why would he reach into the vehicle to grab a gun, as Shelby claimed?

Wood figured the suspect, high on hallucinogens, did intend to grab his gun; he forgot in his addled state that he’d lost it the day before.

The investigator unearthed more. Some media reports had painted the deceased as a docile “church-going choir member.” In fact, Wood says, “warrants were out for him for failure to appear. He’d been a certified gang member for 20 years. He’d been shot before, stabbed before, blinded in one eye in a gang fight. He’d served time for selling crack and resisting arrest. On parole, he flunked 15 drug tests but was never revoked. His parole officer had complained in writing that he was a danger to himself and society, but nothing was done.”

Much of the suspect’s background would be excluded from court as irrelevant and prejudicial. But Wood says the discoveries motivated him to fight back hard against what he considered a blatantly distorted activist narrative.

“I decided we were going to be very vocal in our defense,” he says. “The gloves had to come off. I just was not going to let the protesters and the media run amok saying Betty shot some innocent guy with his hands up.”

PUSHING BACK

As co-counsel, Wood recruited Shannon McMurray, a Tulsa criminal defense attorney with “a reputation for being extremely aggressive and zealous in representing clients.” She enthusiastically embraced the strategy of high-visibility pushback.

One Saturday Wood locked himself in his office and “completely filled a whiteboard with factual information I wanted to bring out.” In one three-day period, he gave interviews to nearly 30 local and national tv and print outlets. And he put together a PowerPoint presentation on the case that the local FOP posted on social media.

“You couldn’t go anywhere in Tulsa and not hear people talking about the shooting,” he says. “Looking ahead to a jury, we needed to be part of that.”

In a particularly dicey move, Wood and McMurray agreed to let Shelby be interviewed on 60 Minutes, known for its take-no-prisoners exposes. The crew took a full day to film the segment. Wood chuckles at the memory of McMurray pulling a producer aside and telling him, “If you screw us on this, I’ll personally come to New York and make your life holy [expletive] hell.”

When the piece aired, it included footage of the suspect’s twin sister bitterly condemning Shelby for shooting, and host Bill Whittaker’s tone and language at times conveyed skepticism about the officer’s perceptions.

But Shelby had generous airtime in which she gave a detailed account of the confrontation from her perspective. “She showed her composure and stability and offered a rational justification for her actions, which is what we wanted,” Wood says.

TRIAL RUNS

While working to maintain visibility in the court of public opinion, behind the scenes the two attorneys prepared for the court of law, where Shelby’s freedom would be at stake.

In analyzing the circumstances of the shooting and crafting points they needed to address at trial, two key consultants they conferred with closely were Dr. Bill Lewinski of the Force Science Institute and another seasoned use-of-force expert, Jim Clark, former legal section chair for the National Tactical Officers Assn.

The consensus ultimately evolved that four critical issues must be dealt with persuasively to sway a jury in the defense’s favor:

• Did the suspect actually try to reach inside his SUV or, as the protest narrative insisted, was the driver’s window fully raised, making a thrust inside impossible?

• Why did Shelby shoot before the suspect actually produced a weapon and clearly posed a life-threatening danger?

• Why didn’t she use less-lethal force to control him instead of killing him?

• Was she in control of her emotions at the time she pulled the trigger or, as the district attorney alleged, was she in an out-of-control “melt down” from unreasonable and unnecessary panic and fear?

As part of honing their case, Wood and McMurray conducted mock trials with two focus groups. “We presented both sides, anticipating what the DA’s main case would be and arguing ours,” Wood explains. “We learned a lot.”

Perhaps the most memorable—and challenging—lesson, he says, was “how hard it is to get civilians who have never really been scared of dying to get inside an officer’s head in a deadly force encounter.”

He asked one mock juror if she had ever been in a situation that she considered comparable. Oh yes, she said: one time she’d been outdoors and noticed that off in the distance a coyote was looking in her direction.

STATE’S CASE

When the real trial got underway early in May, in the courthouse where Shelby had worked as a deputy when she was with the sheriff’s office, eight women and four men occupied the jury box. One of the men and two of the women were black.

During jury selection, the DA had told prospects that the case had “a great deal to do with racial bias.” But this theme failed to be developed with hard evidence when the state called its witnesses. (In her 60 Minutes interview, Shelby had emphatically denied any racial animus, and people who knew her were familiar with her cordial professional and social relationships with blacks, Wood says.)

The state’s case focused principally on Shelby’s emotional status surrounding the shooting of a subject who wasn’t advancing, wasn’t making threats, and wasn’t holding any weapon. Called as state witnesses, officers who’d been at the scene conceded that she’d shown some emotion after the shooting, when she exclaimed repeatedly, “I can’t believe he made me do it!” But no one offered any recollection that suggested that overwhelming and unreasonable fear had driven her deadly force decision.

Of course, the recording of her tearful and anguished collapse during her formal interview was shown. Sgt. Dave Walker, the homicide detective and Force Science Analyst who’d taken her statement, agreed she was emotional then, “reliving the event.” But, he testified on McMurray’s cross-examination, her behavior was not abnormal in his experience of investigating some 20-30 OISs—“everyone handles stress and grief differently”—and did not necessarily reflect her behavior the evening of the shooting.

More unusual and emotional, he stated, was the DA’s behavior—bringing charges before Walker completed his investigation and before autopsy and toxicology results were known. If the decision had been his to make, Walker insisted, he would not have charged Shelby with any crime.

DEFENSE CASE

The core of the case on Shelby’s behalf consisted of testimony from a series of subject-matter experts, hand picked to address the essential questions Wood and McMurray had identified in their planning stage. Wood, who handled their testimony at trial, recalls the key messages he intended for each to get across to the jury.

• Parris Ward, a forensics animator, video expert, and fellow faculty member with Wood for the Force Science seminar on body cameras. After explaining the many limitations of law enforcement recording equipment, Ward showed an “enhanced and stabilized” version of the video of Shelby’s shooting filmed by the camera on board the police helicopter that had hovered over the scene.

While distance and poor quality of the raw footage had initially left uncertain whether the suspect had actually reached through the window of his SUV, the enlarged and technologically improved version “was so clear you could see that the window was about 60 per cent down and he did reach into the car,” Wood says. “If a gun had been in the door pocket, he could have grabbed it. This was the ‘money shot’ of the case.”

• Dr. David Klinger, former officer and shooting survivor, CJ professor, and author of the book, Into the Kill Zone, a benchmark study of OISs. “A very powerful part of his testimony was his explanation of research regarding action versus reaction,” Wood says.

“Action always beats reaction. If Betty had waited to see what was in the suspect’s hand when it came out of the window, it could have cost her her life. Klinger explained that in the time it would have taken her to see a gun and decide to shoot, the suspect could have gotten off two to four shots at her.

“Klinger explained that she had to anticipate a threat based on the suspect’s behavior and try to preempt it. This suspect was ignoring her commands even when she had a gun drawn on him, a strong indicator that serious trouble could be coming.”

• Dr. Howard Williams, a 36-year veteran of law enforcement and author of a definitive book on TASER research [see Force Science News #99].

To counter claims that Shelby should have used less-lethal force, Williams testified about cases he has investigated in which CEWs have failed and officers who chose to use them instead of a gun were slain as a result. Overall, he estimated the failure rate for TASERS at 10-15%.

Wood says: “He told the jury that if you really believe the suspect has a gun, you’re not going to bet your life on trying to Tase him. He said an officer in Betty’s position would be ‘ill advised’ to rely on less-lethal options. If he personally were in her position, he would not do it.”

• Dr. Kris Mohandie, forensic police psychologist, authority on OISs, and well-known tv consultant in high-profile cases of violence. “He said that cops train for being involved in a deadly force encounter but it’s the last thing they want to experience,” Wood says. “When it happens it puts them in a state of ‘cognitive dissonance’ for a period afterwards.”

When he analyzed video from the shooting scene, Mohandie said, Shelby’s commands and physical movements seemed deliberate and methodical and did not match someone out of control from anger or fear. Later, during her departmental interview, she did become emotional about having killed someone. But that, in his opinion, “had nothing to do with her state of mind” at the time she shot the suspect.

“He also countered suggestions by the prosecution that Betty had been given ‘special treatment’ because her interview was delayed until she ‘had time to get her story straight’ and she was allowed to view evidence videos before giving a statement. Dr. Mohandie said this is standard police procedure these days.” In fact, Wood says, Tulsa PD has honored both practices in policy for years, with full knowledge and approval of the DA’s office.

To cement the picture of Betty Shelby as a calm, competent officer, Wood and McMurray had the accused officer herself take the stand. During more than two hours of direct testimony and cross-examination, delivered quietly but firmly and with strong eye contact with the jurors, she recounted her training and the danger cues that led to her decision to employ deadly force.

She testified repeatedly that her training stressed that in a potentially dangerous situation, hesitation could prove deadly.

On cross, in response to a question about whose fault the shooting was, she placed the blame squarely where it belonged: If the suspect “would have only communicated with me and complied with what I asked,” she said, “none of this would have happened.”

VERDICT & BEYOND

After a seven-day trial, the jurors deliberated for more than nine hours before agreeing on a verdict. “In the minutes before the judge read it, I was someplace else I had never been before,” Wood says. “I was afraid I would not be able to live with myself if they convicted her.”

Then Betty Shelby and her defense team heard the decision: “Not guilty.”

Almost instantly, anger galvanized the suspect’s family and protesters, who claimed Shelby “got away with murder.” Demonstrators outside the courtroom chanted, “No justice, no peace, no racist police” and yelled, “Bring her out,” referring to Shelby.

“Under a safety plan,” Wood says, “we immediately left the courtroom and got out of the building through a circuitous route to cars that were waiting.” It was days, he says, before the officer and her attorneys felt free to return to their normal routines, and then only with utmost caution.

At this writing, Shelby is back at the PD, “mulling over what she’s going to do long-term,” Wood says. For now, she’s assigned to inside work. An IA investigation is pending, and she has been named in a civil suit brought by the suspect’s estate. In a post-trial statement, the NAACP called the verdict “disappointing,” and said it is hopeful the Justice Dept. will file federal civil rights charges against Shelby.

In announcing the acquittal, CNN reported as fact that Ofcr. Betty Shelby, “who is white,” had killed a black man “who had his hands above his head.”

Atty. Scott Wood can be reached at: okcoplaw@aol.com

comments

  1. avatar tfunk says:

    Sooo…she fired before seeing any type of weapon that could harm her. He was not in the vehicle so couldn’t run her over, she was far enough away he could not hit her with his fists or feet without rushing towards her.

    Yep, if I did that I’d be in jail. Which is where she should spend a long time.

    1. avatar Hannibal says:

      Please watch the following and then talk to me about how someone isn’t in danger until they see the actual gun someone is pulling:

      https://giphy.com/gifs/xUPGcvylKDH8IQZY2Y

      (the point being, there is absolutely no chance you can react fast enough to stop from being shot in some situations)

      1. avatar Chris Mallory says:

        The life of a citizen is more important than the life of a government employee. If they do not have shots fired at them, cops have no business even touching their weapons.

        We need to either disarm cops or remove all immunity. Citizens should be armed, not government employees.

        1. avatar Hannibal says:

          lol nope. Better fire every cop in America and replace them with… well, yourself, if you want that to work.

          …but you won’t, will you? Because no sane person decides to let someone kill them for an abstract ideal.

        2. avatar Rab says:

          This might just be one of the dumbest comment I’ve seen in 25 years of internet browsing. Hats off to you sir, impressive.

        3. avatar Brooksv says:

          when you witness a crime or when you’ll be a victim, deal with it or call the pizza delivery guy, which will also help to reduce the volume of 911 calls in your jurisdiction, unless of course you screw up, but I know you won’t.

        4. avatar drunkEODguy says:

          Actually the life is the same value no matter who’s it is. Maybe you mean it should be the job of police to put themselves in harms way to save citizens (which they don’t have to do according to case law, total B.S). However if you really think one life is more valuable than another based on a uniform or occupation, you’re as bad as the BLM or Antifa riot squad scum.

        5. avatar Me says:

          Since when are police not citizens?

      2. avatar tfunk says:

        Never said there was no possibility of danger.

        Should officers shoot first at every traffic stop? They can’t see everything going on in a vehicle and may not be able to react fast enough, right?

        1. avatar Hannibal says:

          And I never said cops should shoot at every traffic stop. But your idea that a shooting is only justified upon seeing the weapon presented is false. The standard is ‘objectively reasonable fear of serious bodily injury.’ It is not reasonable to demand that cops somehow defy human physiology and defeat the laws of action vs. reaction. You might as well demand that cops wait until the bullet is coming towards them.

          It’s about context. And in this context, while I won’t say things went well, there was sufficient reasonable doubt to reach a finding of ‘not guilty.’

        2. avatar tfunk says:

          I didn’t say you DID say that. But I don’t think “you can’t react fast enough to…” is enough to imply incidents like this shouldn’t be criticized.

          Like I said, if I had done something like this I’d be in jail.

      3. avatar DaveL says:

        What nonsense. Of course “Action always beats reaction”- in other words you can always ensure any random person you meet won’t blow you away of you blow them away first. The thing is that blowing away people who might threaten you in the future (but haven’t yet) , just to gain a tactical advantage, is psychopathic and wrong. It’s also illegal for the rest of us mere mortals, and ought to be illegal for the police.

        1. avatar Mike Betts says:

          Davel – You are absolutely correct. However, decisions regarding use of force, including lethal force, are based upon a TOTALITY of the circumstances, ideally as perceived by the officer with the information he/she had AT THAT INSTANT. Is that person behaving rationally and not as though he/she is under the influence of a mind-altering chemical substance? Is this someone who is intent upon “suicide by cop” and intends to force you to use lethal force to save your own life? You have several seconds at the most to decide whether or not you should live or maybe die. What are you going to DO? Oops! Too late. You’re dead.

        2. avatar The Gray Poseur says:

          Why can’t you guys accept that there is some risk of dying as part of your chosen profession?

          I cannot shoot every panhandler that approaches me in a parking lot who has his hand in his pocket, just because I “perceive” a threat. There is some risk accepted in stepping out in public. We deal with it.

          And why do you guys trot out the same old shit all-or-nothing talking points constantly? Instead of just admitting one of your blood brothers in blue fvcked up? Again.

        3. avatar Mike Betts says:

          GP – Have I EVER stated on these pages that cops don’t f**k up sometimes? I don’t think so – because sometimes they DO. I’ve lost count of the times I started an “officer counseling” session with one of my guys with, “What the hell were you THINKING?” Cops are human beings and are subject to the same frailties, emotions, and fears that any other human being is. Copa don’t want to die any more than YOU do – but they don’t have the option of retreating when things get uglier than my neighbor’s kid. If they didn’t lose their jobs, they’d lose the respect of their fellow cops if they shied away from danger.

          I’m not saying that your comments are “ignorant” with the word as a pejorative. I use the term in it’s literal meaning, i.e., you simply don’t know.

        4. avatar The Gray Poseur says:

          And that is one of LEO’s biggest problems. Nobody outside of your tight blue circle knows shit. And are therefore ignorant.

        5. avatar Mike Betts says:

          GP – At the risk of repeating myself, I’m going to repeat myself: The average citizen knows as much about police work aa I know about nuclear physics. However, there is a difference. A nuclear physicist can come up with a predictable result with his calculations. A street cop can’t EVER predict what a human being will do, particularly one under the influence of one or more of the plethora of mind-altering chemical substances available on the street to scramble the parts in one’s brain housing group.

    2. avatar Mike Betts says:

      tfunk – And your claim to greater expertise than Dr. David Klinger is ……?

      1. avatar The Gray Poseur says:

        Mike. Some of us have an issue with the constantly declining acceptable level of danger that police officers are willing to accept as an inherent part of their chosen careers. No one is forcing LEOs to work every day. I personally expect an LEO to confirm their lives are in danger prior to killing a member of our society. You know, the same as the rest of us. Confirm a threat, not suspect a threat based on some past wacky scenario that is unlikely to occur with any frequency . I don’t think that is unreasonable.

        If it was up to me, she would be in jail. She is a coward who killed an unarmed citizen.

        1. avatar Mike Betts says:

          GP – I can appreciate your perspective on an OIS. Then again, I’ve oft said that the average man on the street knows as much about being a good street cop as I know about nuclear physics. A street cop has to make a life-or-death decision in an instant with the information he/she has at the time which will be scrutinized minutely by Internal Affairs, a prosecutor’s office, perhaps a grand jury, perhaps (as in this a case) a criminal jury, a civil trial jury, and then if the feds decide they want to prosecute you for a Title 18 violation of civil rights – you get to do it all over again. And all that is if you make that split-second decision to shoot. And if you DON’T shoot? You could end up dead. That’s why you often hear cops say, “I’d rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6”.

        2. avatar The Gray Poseur says:

          I know Mike. That’s what I’m saying. Being shot and killed is a risk of the job you guys voluntarily chose to take. Deal with it and don’t shoot everything that is a “perceived” threat. You guys have successfully lowered the bar steadily over the years and it’s disgraceful what occurring around our country on a daily basis. Cops behaving badly. And your LEO talking points are tired.

        3. avatar Mike Betts says:

          GP – Our “LEO talking points are getting tired”? Sorry, but some verities bear repeating. Cops are the people who “ride to the sound of the guns” when rational/sensible people are going AWAY from it. While it was nice to see President Trump honor today the officers involved in the shootout with the man who tried to kill the Congress critters, it’s something which a cop or cops somewhere in this country do virtually EVERY day.

        4. avatar I1ULUZ says:

          Have you ever had to deal with someone on drugs or drunk? Any use of deadly force training? Here is a video of a Black Lives Matter leader, he was man enough to be on the other side of the issue, the Blue Lives Matter /LEO side, which shows me he’s setting an example for others. Watch it till the end, see what he thinks after doing it.

      2. avatar tfunk says:

        At what point did I claim to be anything?

        1. avatar Mike Betts says:

          tfunk – Well, excuuuuuuse me! Somehow I thought that your opining that the cop should be in prison right now was somehow condemnatory of her actions and that you knew more than the experts who testified and the jury which weighed all of the evidence presented before pronouncing her “Not guilty”..

        2. avatar tfunk says:

          I said if I had done that I’d be in jail…and that’s where I think she should be. No claim to anything 🙂

    3. avatar Xythlord says:

      Don’t you have a job to be at or something?

      1. avatar tfunk says:

        Not for a couple weeks 🙂

    4. avatar Jeremy says:

      At the heart of your comment is a good point. You would be in jail for the same thing.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        Would you or me or the Poser stop to check out a stalled vehicle or strange acting fellow in the street?

        Society gives the cop the benefit of the doubt because when we are running from the fight they are running towards it.

        1. avatar tfunk says:

          Pretty sure he’s not referring to the checking out a vehicle part.

        2. avatar Alexander says:

          Evidently, in Orlando the cops were not running toward the fight…

    5. avatar Sheepdog6 says:

      If you like you and I can run 100 scenarios with simunitions where I’ll kill you 90 times because I “wasn’t a threat” and you were either not paying attention or giving me the benefit of the doubt. The other ten times I’ll have you so rattled that you’ll shoot me when I truly didn’t pose any threat at all and I’ll calmly explain that you just committed a crime that will lead you to spending the rest of your life in prison. Either way you will fail 100 percent of the time.

    6. avatar VeritasAequ8tas says:

      I disagree. You’re probably right that if you or I had pulled the trigger under those circumstances that we would be in prison UNLESS there was good video documentation, like there was in this case. She did exactly what she was trained to do and innocent or normal people respond to an officers orders, those that don’t are not only a threat to the officer, but to every man, woman and child they come across. Our police force has a very hard job protecting our communities and EVERYBODY that lives within our communities, even the ones that find any reason they can to discredit police efforts.

  2. avatar Hannibal says:

    The most disturbing part of this- beyond the immediate racist narrative put forth- is that the prosecutor was trying to tie guilty to being emotionally upset after killing someone.

    How many people WOULDN’T be upset after shooting someone, justification aside? Does he think officers are all a combination of robocop and dirty harry?

    1. avatar Andrew Lias says:

      I would be deeply concerned if a person didn’t show some form of deep moral questioning over killing a person. The kind of people who kill without remorse are truly scary.

  3. avatar Jeremy says:

    I am generally very critical and skeptical of police, because I do believe that it is in the best interests of every person to avoid all contact with police officers unless absolutely necessary. If possible and legal, handle whatever the issue is on your own.

    With that said, this case (and many others like it) should never have seen charges brought at all. The officer assessed correctly that the suspect was high on PCP and also assessed correctly that he was intending to grab a weapon (suspect forgot that there was no weapon, but that is irrelevant).

    Simple lesson: If you stop your car in the middle of the street and attempt to grab a gun (real gun, or your imagined one) while ignoring an officer’s commands, they’re probably going to shoot at you, rightfully so.

    1. avatar The Gray Poseur says:

      He was reaching for his “imaginary” gun. Your psychic powers are impressive. Police departments all over the country will find your insights incredibly valuable to get their officers off the hook with each questionable shooting. Please, tell us the secret answer to how the Somalian cop in Minneapolis is going to get off the hook for killing the Australian blonde? Was she reaching for her imaginary bowie knife?

      1. avatar Hannibal says:

        The whole point is that cops aren’t expected to be psychic under the law. We have no evidence that the woman in the Twin Cities posed any threat that would be perceived by a reasonable officer. We definitely have evidence that this man presented a threat that would be perceived by any reasonable officer. Not even close to the same situation, given the information we have (though the cop in the second case has not offered any defense either at this point).

        Tamir Rice posed no ‘real’ threat either but it doesn’t matter because it is impossible to discern the exact nature of a threat unless you wait to see if it’s a BB or a real slug being fired at you.

      2. avatar JohnTX says:

        The blond in Minneapolis wasn’t a thug in the middle of the street who reached into her vehicle when an approaching cop gave her orders.

        1. avatar Mike Betts says:

          How incredibly prescient of you. Being human, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that he f***ked up big time. If that’s shown to be the case, may he face the consequences as anyone should.

  4. avatar TexTed says:

    To hell with the “news”. Ain’t nobody knows a *** **** thing.

    Stories like this are fascinating because it rips away the blanket of lies and innuendo and agenda that the “reporters” layer on it and shows what actually happened.

    That said, I’m sure a whole lot of the drama could have been dispensed with if she’d had a working body camera that would have clearly shown him reaching in the car. Would have shut the whole “he had his hands up” narrative down immediately.

    1. avatar Hannibal says:

      I wish. When the video came out of Michael Brown robbing a store people refused to acknowledge it and instead kept calling him a ‘gentle giant.’

      1. avatar The Gray Poseur says:

        Which people? Not me. Maybe all of the “Friends of Mike”,

        1. avatar Hannibal says:

          I was more referring to the media but, yes, friends of mike too. The ‘community.’

  5. avatar Rabbi says:

    “…DA’s behavior—bringing charges before Walker completed his investigation and before autopsy and toxicology results were known”

    This tells you the true mentality of the prosecutor. He wanted another notch on his belt regardless of the truth.

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      Is the DA there an elected position?

  6. avatar Joe R. says:

    She got hosed when one of her fellow officers tased the perp from behind her left shoulder before announcing their intentions. It appears that she reacted more to that than the perp, although the perp did EVERYTHING he possibly could under the circumstances to TRY TO get shot by police that day.

    Play stupid games, win stupid prizes – don’t do PCP kids, your de-escalation skills drop to level zero, and cops gotta flip the coin on whether you are a zombie.

    1. avatar Mike in OK says:

      Yeah, that’s what I think as well. Then she had to justify it because if she said it was an accident then she’s almost certainly guilty of a crime.

      1. avatar The Gray Poseur says:

        She also got hosed when her partner didn’t plant the throw-down gun. Oh dang, those pesky body and dash cams.

        1. avatar Joe R. says:

          Ya, you’re not from here.

          Anyway, terrible terrible thing but I repeat my statement that the perp did everything he could to get shot by a cop, and the shot came late.

          In the end, it might just save lives though. Kinda like the Titanic. Terrible that so many people perished on a cruise, but now there are safer ships, more life-preservers, more life-rafts, better at-sea comms, etc.

          Lets hope the PCP pumped perp saves others from their own stupid shitidity.

      2. avatar Randy says:

        Shelby was acquitted by a Jury, who were at the trial and heard testimony and saw the evidence, it was not because she was protected by a law that prohibits prosecution of cops. The reason she was acquitted was because the DA over charged due to political pressure. The charges she faced were as if she was purposely looking for a reason to kill the suspect.

  7. avatar Gordon in MO says:

    Betty Shelby returned to duty with Tulsa PD and was given a desk assignment. She subsequently resigned from the Tulsa PD saying a desk job was not what she wanted to do the rest of her life.

    I am a police supporter. Having said that, there have been some police shootings that were not “good”/legal. I think police training should be reviewed and hiring practices should be reviewed. I don’t blame officers for being on edge now days given the BLM “protests” and calls to “kill the pigs”.

    The DA immediately filing charges smacked of politics, not law and I still think it was.

    The vast majority of LEO are dedicated to “serve and protect” by the law. We should support them.

    Something taught in the Marine Corps, “don’t second guess the officer in the battle”. We were not there, we don’t know all the facts.

    Something we all should know, “don’t trust what you see in the media”.

    1. avatar The Gray Poseur says:

      Why do cops need our “support”?

      Why don’t they go do their jobs on a daily basis without the need for all the hero worship bullshit? You know, like the rest of us. Oh, I know, they leverage all this “support” for nice raises every bargaining cycle.

      1. avatar Mike Betts says:

        GP – I don’t know what you do for a living but I’ll ask you how many people who do it get killed for doing it every year? Yes, I know that there are more hazardous occupations then being a LEO but they usually pay much more, too. If they don’t, the people who do them are either damned fools or they’re too inept to do anything else. I took a 25% pay cut when I gave up what I was doing and was accepted by the county PD, but I did it because I wanted to “protect and serve”. Yeah, there are those who pin on a badge because it’s just a job – but more view it as a calling, something which must be done simply because it MUST be done and society needs good people to do it. Is EVERY cop, including those I’ve known, a sterling individual, a “hale fellow, well met”? Nope. There are some who should NEVER have been given a badge and the authority to deprive a citizen of his liberty, much less his life. Concerning them, the meme of “Nobody hates a bad cop more than a good cop” applies.

      2. avatar John in AK says:

        You, like many of your compatriots, are merely angry and jealous because a VAST majority of the population views police (and other public servants, such as firefolks, doctors, nurses, and EMTs) as having FAR more value to society at large than do you, in your thankless but otherwise demanding job as short-order cook, garbageman, truck driver, janitor, or whatever job it is that you do that makes you so bitter about the esteem most people have for police officers..
        That’s not going to change any time soon. Face the fact that you are in a minority.
        Get over it. It makes you appear petty.

    2. avatar Jeremy says:

      The military should not be mentioned in any discussion about the police. This only serves to reinforce the asinine idea that the police are in some ways similar to the military. They are not at all.

      1. avatar John in AK says:

        Really?

        Do cops wear uniforms? Check.
        Do they carry guns? Check.
        Do they fight ‘battles’ with other armed people on occasion?
        Check.
        Do they volunteer to fight those battles with other armed people at the behest of the general population? Check.
        Does the general population ask them to fight those battles so that they don’t have to? Check.
        Do they fight those battles because other members of the general population choose to stay at home? Check.

        Nope. No similarities whatsoever.

        1. avatar Mike Betts says:

          And let’s not forget the hierarchal rank structure which is in many cases an exact mirror of the military.

        2. avatar Joe R. says:

          If cops are the military, than the individual people are more so. That’s the permanent equation.

          I have one personal policy regarding all of them.

          Raise the first finger of your right hand. That’s how many people you will ever equal. You can put a badge on it, an Olympic medal, a Congressional Medal of Honor, a stethoscope, a fireman’s hat, the Pope’s ring, whathaveyou. It don’t make a sh_t, you’ll only ever be a single human being. If you ever find yourself thinking that you are greater than that one, then bend that finger around to touch your thumb, and that’s what you are.

          IF YOU THINK YOU ARE EVER MORE THAN 1 HUMAN BEING, YOU ARE ZERO.

          Cops quickly achieve zero status when they hold themselves up as being more/higher/better than the people that they serve. THE U.S. MILITARY HAS DONE AN OUTSTANDING JOB AT CREATING THE PROPER MINDSET IN THEIR RANKS THAT THE MILITARY IS IN-SERVICE TO THE CITIZENRY IT
          S E R V E S.

          This doesn’t just go for AMERICA, where we enshrine it in our organizational doctrines, it is a worldwide thing.

          “On the notion of individual sovereignty one individual could say to another “Stand feet shoulder-width in your largest foot gear and draw a chalk line around the soles of your shoes.
          The lines alone contain the hallowed ground upon which you are king, until, by you, I am made to move my feet”.” [J.M. Thomas R., TERMS, 2012, Pg. 77 ]

    3. avatar Hannibal says:

      I tend to think that the desk job and subsequent resignation were about as reasonable as the verdict. Just because someone is found ‘not guilty’ of a criminal charge and the shooting was legally justified in that way doesn’t mean the situation was handled in an appropriate way. Now people screw up all the time, including cops, but when you let a situation degrade to the point this one did, maybe you need to find a different assignment where you’re not expected to deal with large guys who are on PCP.

      But if I were here I would have maybe stayed on the desk until the civil lawsuits were over because they are gonna be ugly.

  8. avatar Curtis in IL says:

    The point has been made above that if any of us private citizens had done what Officer Shelby did, we would be in prison. Probably true.

    I think it’s worth mentioning that we private citizens have options that Officer Shelby didn’t have. We could have run away. In fact, we can make a hasty retreat whenever we encounter someone we think is irrational and potentially dangerous. But Officer Shelby had a job to do. Her job was to apprehend people like this drugged-up thug to prevent him from hurting other people. That’s why she was there in the first place.

    Since I wasn’t at the trial, I’ll not pass judgment of guilt or innocence. I’m more than willing to condemn bad cops when the evidence is clear. I think being a police officer requires you to assume a certain amount of personal risk. But I also think there is good reason why police are held to a different standard than private citizens in cases like this.

    1. avatar Anon in CT says:

      But us private citizens probably wouldn’t be in that situation. It’s not our job to investigate weirdly stopped cars. And if we see someone acting all PCP’d up we drive away quickly and call 911.

      And then the police show up and have to deal with the situation.

      1. avatar The Gray Poseur says:

        “Dealing” with the situation does not have to involve lethal force.

        1. avatar John in AK says:

          And sometimes it does. When it DOES, who’s going to ‘deal’ with it then? You?
          Certainly not. You will do nothing. Like most of your ilk, you will expect somebody else to ‘deal’ with it. Somebody that gets PAID to ‘deal’ with such things.

          You can’t be bothered.

          It’s not your job.

          Of course, you feel empowered, with your infinite insight and wisdom, to criticize those who DO ‘deal’ with it, from the sidelines and with impunity, although you have no training, education, or experience in the field.

          It must be wonderful.

  9. avatar former water walker says:

    Meh…what a long-winded load of bat guano. This gal should NEVER have a badge or a gun. “Big black man scare me”. If I ever get in trouble I want that fast talking lawyer…

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      ” If I ever get in trouble I want that fast talking lawyer…”

      So would I.

      Can you afford to pay him?

      That right there is motivation to buy one o those carry insurance policies.

      From reading this article, she had some able legal representation who spent what was required to represent her.

      What would that level of representation have cost someone who wasn’t a credentialed LE?

      $200,000? Higher?

  10. avatar st381183 says:

    You know what she could have done was withdraw to cover, be aware of the backup around her, and assess the situation she was helping to push along. There is no shame to getting to cover, she was too close the suspect, especially if she believed the suspect was armed. You can’t kill someone over an imaginary gun. If he had popped his hand out of the car with something that was or looked like a gun I would say good shoot. Otherwise I am not a believer. 22+ years of LEO experience and many situations like this under my belt. By this defense any cop could say that any furtive movement is justification for deadly force. People reach into their cars for door handles, paperwork, drinks, to antagonize police, and sometimes for a gun. LEO work is dangerous and as a LEO you should and have to take on more risk than the average person in order to justify a use of force response.

    Today’s millennials call SWAT for everything. Fourth party report of an object that may have been a gun – SWAT. Do as I shout at you without question or explanation – body slam or shots fired, because the suspect didn’t listen and I felt I was in danger. One time one of my officers was calling for a full on bomb squad response for what was an obvious piece of plumbing PVC pipe. I just went up to it, confirmed it was a hollow tube and removed the offending pipe from the road. The modern LEO mindset is mitigate any and all risk and use force on anyone who questions my authority. Get these guys out of their take home units and on foot patrol so they can learn to talk with people.

    1. avatar The Gray Poseur says:

      You can’t possibly really be a cop. Just kidding. Thank you sincerely for your thoughtful analysis without all the back the blue stuff.

      1. avatar Mike Betts says:

        GP – Anyone can make an alternative scenario in retrospect, and that includes the officer involved in the OIS. Having been involved in an OIS shooting myself, I’ve run so many things that I COULD have done or maybe SHOULD have done over the many years since the shooting that I can’t count them all. However, when one perceives mortal danger there’s such a thing as “tunnel vision” which enters into the equation. All of your attention and your thinking is locked into that immediate threat and nothing else enters your mind. It’s a normal facet of human psychology. If you wish, you may pooh-pooh it as panic or cowardice – but only if you’ve never been in a situation where you have to make that shoot/don’t shoot decision.

    2. avatar IHeartGlocks says:

      “LEO work is dangerous and as a LEO you should and have to take on more risk than the average person in order to justify a use of force response.”

      Amen and thank you.

  11. avatar Gapharmd says:

    What is sad to me is it seems like the DA and media won his battle. Just look at the comments so far. All the arguing over the officer who was found not guilty by a jury.

    No outrage at the DA. No outrage at the fake media…. and continued propagation of there racial bias anti gun narrative.

    The true crime here is that the media incited a mob and continues to lie and divide our country with journalist immunity when it comes to the truth. And a DA ruined a woman’s life for doing her job as she was trained and doing it effectively. This is what should be discussed and addressed in the future.

  12. avatar Ing says:

    Looks to me like just about everyone in here is cherrypicking the narrative to reinforce their own preconceived conclusions. This conversation can serve no purpose anymore.

    Confirmation bias reigns supreme.

  13. avatar JurisCani says:

    How much did the author/attorney pay for this long-advertisement for his services?

  14. avatar Kendahl says:

    Earlier this year, in another city, a cop found himself looking into the muzzle of a gun. Although he was relatively new to the job, he did have combat experience in the Middle East. The cop made the judgement call that the other guy was trying to commit suicide by cop but wasn’t actually a threat. Instead of shooting, he tried to talk the guy down. The effort went for naught because another cop arrived on the scene and promptly shot the guy dead.

    The kicker in this is that the first cop’s restraint got him fired. The official excuse was that he had violated policy but it came down to his being fired because he didn’t automatically shoot in a situation where, in his personal judgement, it wasn’t necessary.

    1. avatar Mike Betts says:

      I heard about that particular situation. The department said that the officer’s actions were reckless and stupid, likely to get him killed. My response to that is that if it works, it’s neither reckless or stupid, SOP’s be damned. When you’re dealing with human emotions, every car in the deck is a wild card and you play the cards you’re dealt.

      1. avatar John in AK says:

        . . . and if it hadn’t worked, the cop would be the stupidest man in the graveyard, and might very well have got somebody else killed as well.
        Of course everybody just LOVES dead heroes. . .

        1. avatar Mike Betts says:

          John AK – I’m not going to question that officer’s judgement or motivation. It was his judgement at the time that this situation could have been de-escalated without employing deadly force. Having “been there, done that” on both ends of the spectrum, I’m not going to condemn him for being either extremely brave or incredibly foolish. It was HIS call as the first officer there.

        2. avatar John in AK says:

          I have also been there, and done that.

          Any event should, by rights, be judged on its outcome. In this scenario, the first officer MAY have been right, and he may have been wrong–but we will never know, because the second officer ended the confrontation with finality before it could play out, in all of its possible permutations.
          Might the extrovert-suicidal fellow have come to his senses, given time? Might he have refrained from executing the first officer, or maybe even the second officer, might he have seen the error of his ways, put down the gun, and later become a selfless missionary in Africa?
          On the other hand, might he have killed both officers and then himself, or someone else? Might he have climbed to the top of a chemical tank and blown up the entire facility (“Made it, Ma! Top of the world!”)?
          We cannot know. What we DO know is that no innocents died, and somebody who claimed violently and with certainty that they desired death, with dire consequences if they did not become dead posthaste, is dead.
          I do not want valuable police officers taking unnecessary, NEEDLESS gambles with either their lives or those of their fellow officers, or with the lives of members of the public not involved immediately in the incident at hand. All that I require of them is that they use the best judgement possible–and if that judgement says that the life of a suicide, who demands that his own life be taken lest innocents die at his hand, is forfeit, so be it.
          I was not there. But, I would not die (nor would I expect someone else to do so) in exchange for the life of someone who has decided that, not only does their own life have no value, but that, in ultimate selfishness, they are willing to kill an innocent out of being too cowardly to destroy their own (now worthless–no, LESS-than-worthless) life.
          22 years of service–19 of those as a crisis negotiator.

        3. avatar Mike Betts says:

          Ah, a fellow “Mouth Marine”! That would explain your obvious familiarity with the psychology of both perps and the cops who have to deal with them, I was a negotiator for 3 years before I was retired on disability with 15 years as a cop. NOBODY has ever invented a drug that will ever give you a bigger high than the one you get after spending hours wracking your brain trying to come up with the magic words that will get that drunk/drugged/mentally unstable person to lay down his weapon(s) and give up and he finally comes out with no blood shed.

          I try not to be harsh with the people who paint with the broad brush of condemnation when a cop screws up because they quite simply don’t know – and we DO.

  15. avatar Anon says:

    Why do police officers stick with each other socially? Because they always like each other?

    Police are of course exposed to the finest citizens of the community every day. They never have problems in any community.

    Take into account all the trash the police deal with every day ( regardless of what anyone says, this puts them in a mindset).

    She dealt with the best of the best every day, every call tenses them up, so does every traffic stop.

    You’ve had days to dissect this. She had maybe a second.

    She did good. And I’m not a cop or have any friends who are.
    .

    1. avatar Ted Unlis says:

      That’s exactly right. What the cop haters don’t take into account is that with each errant criminal prosecution of a LEO based on a reactionary political motive to appease a particular dysfunctional demographic, sooner or later the cop haters will get their wish for a completely non aggressive and totally reactionary law enforcement effort. That’s already happening in $#it hole cities like Baltimore where LEO’s have adapted to their cop hating residents and government officials by steering clear of conflict and doing the absolute bare minimum as a matter of self preservation.

  16. avatar Ralph says:

    Betty Shelby should never have been involved in any way with Terence Crutcher. She should have let him do whatever he wanted to do. So what if he was amped up to the eyeballs on PCP? So what if he was a danger to himself and others? She is white and he was black, which automatically means that she was wrong and he was right. #BLM. No other facts are necessary.

    Right?

    1. avatar Ted Unlis says:

      That’s exactly right. What the cop haters don’t take into account is that with each errant criminal prosecution of a LEO based on a reactionary political motive to appease a particular dysfunctional demographic, sooner or later the cop haters will get their wish for a completely non aggressive and totally reactionary law enforcement effort. That’s already happening in $#it hole cities like Baltimore where LEO’s have adapted to their cop hating residents and government officials by steering clear of conflict and doing the absolute bare minimum as a matter of self preservation.

  17. avatar Accur81 says:

    Still a bad shoot, it’s just a bad guy who got shot. There’s always a bad guy out there somewhere. There’s always a suspect description. A good shoot has legitimate fear of death / great bodily injury, the ability of the suspect to carry out that threat, and a specific action that indicates intent to carry out that threat. That’s a bad guy pointing a gun at you or approaching with a raised knife or other deadly weapon.

    I apologize for yet another bad shoot by law enforcement. I endeavor to train my subordinates better than this.

  18. avatar Brooksv says:

    It’s easy to be an armchair quarterback when it comes to what cops do, yet the overwhelming majority of civilians fail big time in “shoot don’t shoot” scenarios. And I am not talking about throwing any unrealistic curve balls, just your basic guy steps out of his car holding a cellphone and so on. The majority of folks including gun owners who frequent gun ranges and have attended self defense classes, shoot when they shouldn’t have and are a day late and a dollar short when confronted with a threat.

  19. avatar bryan1980 says:

    I think we need to stop the “if I had pulled the trigger, I’d be in jail” business right now. There would be no reason for a non-LEO to have even been in this situation to begin with. She was attempting to make an arrest when this happened.

    There have been (and will be) other questionable uses of deadly force by LEO’s to be rightfully outraged over; this is not one of those, so save the effort for when it really matters.

  20. avatar Ted Unlis says:

    WOW! If nothing else some of the comments on this article prove that LEO’s can never forget or underestimate just how deep the ignorant irrational fear and loathing of law enforcement runs in cop haters like Chris Mallory and Gray POS.

  21. avatar Docduracoat says:

    Another time someone is killed by police for not following shouted commands!
    Since when can Police execute you for not following their commands ?
    There are deaf people, and non English speakers
    There are people who are confused by low blood sugar, low oxygen levels, drug use ( both legal and illegal) and mentally ill people.
    Since when are the police allowed to shoot you because you don’t follow orders and they are scared of you?
    I am sorry but the police need to accept a greater level of risk
    Their primary job is not to return home safe every night
    It is to Protect the public

  22. avatar CLarson says:

    Our police do terrible things because our population is terrible. Society always sinks to the lowest common denominator. Sounds like this lady is a decent person. I am glad she didn’t have to go to jail over this jackass.

  23. avatar Randy says:

    It seems a lot of people here are missing the part where Shelby was acquitted by a Jury of civilians. I am suspicious of government and over reach by law enforcement as the next guy. But the DA bowed to political pressure to over charge in this case, which is another thing we must concern ourselves with, as you may face the same over charge in defense of your home one day in certain political climates. No one here in Tulsa felt that the circumstances warranted the death of the suspect, and many of us feel the real issue was Shelby being a woman might have felt more fear of a physical confrontation but that is not politically correct to discuss out loud either. So the DA charges her with a crime that requires the proof that she was looking for a reason to kill the suspect, instead of charging her with being negligent. If the race baiters, and the national media had never gotten involved and political pressure not applied it is likely Shelby would have been charged and punished appropriately for her flawed decision.

  24. avatar Chris T in KY says:

    She went to trial and was acquitted. Good!!
    Intoxicated drivers who don’t follow police commands get shot when they present a danger to the police and to others. This will not change when the libertarians get their utopia and you can legally shot up crystal meth in public, in front of your or other peoples children.

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