Terence Crutcher had a rough past, including a four-year prison stint on drug charges, but he had begun to put the past behind him and turn his life around before he was shot to death by a Tulsa, Oklahoma, police officer last week, his family said.
Crutcher sent his twin sister, Dr. Tiffany Crutcher, of Montgomery, Alabama, a text last month after the pair celebrated their 40th birthday: “I’m gonna show you; I’m gonna make you all proud.” His family also includes his four children, his pastor father and his mother, who on CNN Wednesday morning described him as her "compassionate son."
Leanna Crutcher's description came in response to audio from inside a police helicopter, uttered moments before her son was shot, in which an officer could be heard saying that Crutcher looked like a "bad dude."
"That big, bad dude mattered," Tiffany Crutcher said.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Crutcher was due to start a music appreciation class last Friday at Tulsa Community College. Instead, he was shot to death by Tulsa police Officer Betty Shelby after Shelby responded to a report of a stalled SUV blocking traffic.
Crutcher was unarmed at the time, and video footage from an officer’s dashboard camera, as well as footage from a police helicopter, showed he had walked back to his vehicle with his hands in the air before Shelby opened fire.
Melvin Hall, an attorney for the Crutcher family, said Shelby and other officers on the scene could not have known about Crutcher’s criminal history.
"Nobody claimed that he was a perfect individual. Who is perfect? But that night, he was not a criminal," Hall told the AP. "He did not have any warrants. He had not done anything wrong. He had a malfunctioning vehicle, and he should have been treated accordingly."
Records obtained by the AP show that Crutcher was arrested in 1995 in Osage County after he allegedly fired a weapon out of a vehicle window. When Crutcher was ordered to exit the vehicle to be patted down, he began making a movement to his right ankle. The arresting officer found a .25-caliber pistol in his right sock.
Crutcher ultimately pleaded no contest to charges of carrying a weapon and resisting an officer and received suspended sentences.
He served prison time from 2007 to 2011 on drug trafficking charges out of Tulsa County.
Shelby has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation into the shooting. Multiple media sources, including the Wall Street Journal, reported that the Justice Department is also investigating Crutcher’s death.
Footage from the scene did not make it clear why Shelby drew her weapon on Crutcher or what orders she and other responding officers gave him before the shooting.
A second officer appeared to fire his Taser at Crutcher around the same time that Shelby opened fire.
Police said that a vial of PCP was found in Crutcher’s SUV, the AP reported. They did not say where the vial was found or if investigators believe Crutcher used the drug the day he died.
The Crutcher family’s lawyer said that even if he had used the drug, it would not justify his death, the AP reported. The results of Crutcher’s autopsy and toxicology testing are pending.
Shelby’s lawyer, Scott Wood, has argued that Crutcher was not following officers’ commands, and that his client was afraid because the man kept reaching for his pocket.
"He has his hands up and is facing the car and looks at Shelby, and his left hand goes through the car window, and that's when she fired her shot," Wood said.
The Crutcher family’s challenged that claim Tuesday, however, by showing the media an enlarged photo from the police footage that appeared to show that Crutcher's window was rolled up when he was killed.
Tiffany Crutcher told CNN Wednesday that she hopes something positive can grow out of her family's loss.
"We're hoping that America will open their eyes, everybody, and see there's an issue, a systemic issue, that needs to be solved,” Crutcher said. “And we're pleading with the leadership of this country, everyone, to just see that and let's put some systems in place to prevent this from happening again.”
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