By Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton
TULSA, Okla. (Reuters) – An Oklahoma jury on Wednesday found a white Tulsa police officer not guilty of manslaughter in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man in a confrontation caught on video last September, stoking a national debate over racial bias in law enforcement.
Betty Shelby, 43, was acquitted after a week-long trial. She denied race was a factor in the killing and insisted her actions were driven entirely by the behavior of the man she shot, Terence Crutcher, 40, after his car was left blocking a road.
Police videos of the incident were seen globally, and some civil rights advocates have argued that race was a factor. Rights advocates saw the Crutcher case as another in a string of deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of the police in the United States that has spawned periodic protests and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Lawyers for Shelby have said she believed that Crutcher may have been trying to reach through a partially open window for a weapon in the vehicle when she shot him.
“This is a tough pill to swallow. The facts were there. The elements were there. Terence’s hands were in the air. He was not an immediate threat,” Crutcher’s sister, Tiffany, said after the verdict.
Jurors were visibly emotional and some cried when the verdict was read by the judge some nine hours after they began deliberating.
“What I respect is the process. The true reality is that we all knew it was a difficult case,” said Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler who prosecuted the case.
Shelby’s lawyers did not comment to Reuters after the verdict was read.
About 50 protesters gathered outside the courthouse in downtown Tulsa after the verdict was read. They chanted “no justice, no peace” and blocked traffic in an intersection during a peaceful demonstration, media reported.
They also gathered outside a hotel where Shelby was believed to be staying and shouted profanities, the Tulsa World reported.
The case hinged on videos in which…