TULSA, Okla. — Investigators found the drug PCP in the vehicle of an unarmed black man fatally shot by a white officer, according to Oklahoma police, but attorneys for the slain man’s family say a discussion of drugs distracts from questions about the use of deadly force.
Tulsa Sgt. Dave Walker told the Tulsa World on Tuesday that investigators recovered one vial of PCP in Terence Crutcher’s SUV, but he declined to say where in the vehicle it was found or whether officers determined if Crutcher used it Friday night. Walker confirmed to The Associated Press that what he told the newspaper was true, but declined further comment.
A spokeswoman for the state medical examiner’s office said autopsy and toxicology results for Crutcher are pending, and police said Tuesday the toxicology report could take several weeks.
Attorneys for Crutcher’s family said the man’s relatives did not know whether drugs were found in his vehicle and, even if they were, that wouldn’t justify his fatal shooting.
“Let us not be throwing a red herring, and to say because something was found in the car that was justification to shoot him,” said attorney Benjamin Crump, one of the family’s lawyers.
Crump compared Crutcher’s shooting to Monday’s arrest of New York bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami, who police say engaged officers in a shootout.
“He wasn’t killed. So why was an unarmed black man who has committed no crime, who only needs a hand, given bullets in his lungs?” Crump said.
Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby fatally shot the 40-year-old on Friday after responding to a report of a stalled vehicle. Sgt. Shane Tuell said Tuesday that Shelby had a stun gun at the time but did not use it. Officer Tyler Turnbough, who also is white, used a stun gun on Crutcher, police said.
Two 911 calls described an SUV that had been abandoned in the middle of the road. One unidentified caller said the driver was acting strangely, adding, “I think he’s smoking something.”
PCP or phencyclidine, also called angel dust, can cause slurred speech, loss of coordination and a sense of strength or invulnerability, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. At high doses, it can cause hallucinations and paranoia.
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Oklahoma prison officials confirmed Tuesday that Crutcher served four years in prison on a drug conviction from 2007 to 2011.
But Damario Solomon-Simmons, another attorney for Crutcher’s family, said Shelby and other officers had no way of knowing about Crutcher’s background or the potential for drugs in his vehicle when they approached him Friday.
“It’s undisputed that the officers on the scene had no idea what may be in Terence’s car,” Solomon-Simmons said. “At that particular moment that he was shot, he was not a suspect for any crime. Period.”
Police Chief Chuck Jordan said Monday that Crutcher had no weapon on him or in his SUV when he was shot. It’s not clear from dashcam and aerial footage what led Shelby to draw her gun or what orders officers gave Crutcher.
Shelby’s attorney, Scott Wood, said Crutcher was not following the officers’ commands and that Shelby was concerned because he kept reaching for his pocket as if he was carrying a weapon.
“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 told the Tulsa World.
But attorneys for Crutcher’s family challenged that claim Tuesday, presenting an enlarged photo from the police footage that appeared to show that Crutcher’s window was rolled up.
Local and federal investigations are underway to determine whether criminal charges are warranted and whether Crutcher’s civil rights were violated.
Hundreds of protesters rallied Tuesday night outside police headquarters in downtown Tulsa calling for Shelby to be fired.
“Police treated Crutcher differently than they would if a white person had been stopped in a similar instance,” said Sharon Smith, 60, an African-American resident of the suburb of Broken Arrow.
Organizers urged participants to remain peaceful, and the protesters dispersed before nightfall without any incidents.
Police helicopter footage was among several clips released Monday that show the shooting and aftermath. A man in the helicopter that arrives above the scene as Crutcher walks to the vehicle can be heard saying “time for a Taser” and then: “That looks like a bad dude, too. Probably on something.”
Betty Shelby’s mother-in-law, Lois Shelby, said the officer is grieving for Crutcher’s family and isn’t prejudiced. She told the AP in a phone interview Tuesday that Shelby “thought she had to protect her own life” when she shot Crutcher.
“She wouldn’t harm anyone. We’re all sick. We feel for the [Crutcher] family,” Lois Shelby said. “But, you know, we have a family that goes out every day and faces life and death. And when she is being accused of things she didn’t do wrong, it’s too much, and they don’t think about our family.”
Betty Shelby declined to comment, referring calls to her attorney.
Police video shows Crutcher walking toward his SUV that is stopped in the middle of the road. His hands are up and a female officer is following him. As Crutcher approaches the driver’s side of the SUV, more officers arrive and Crutcher appears to lower his hands and place them on the vehicle before the officers surround him.
Crutcher can be seen dropping to the ground. Someone on the police radio says, “I think he may have just been tasered.” Then almost immediately, someone can be heard yelling, “Shots fired!” and Crutcher is left lying in the street.
Shelby’s attorney, Wood, said Turnbough fired the stun gun at the same time Shelby opened fire because both perceived a threat.
The shooting comes four months after ex-Tulsa County volunteer deputy Robert Bates was sentenced to four years in prison on a second-degree manslaughter conviction in an unarmed black man’s 2015 death. Bates said he mistakenly grabbed his gun instead of his Taser. Shelby worked as a Tulsa County sheriff’s deputy for four years before joining the Tulsa Police Department in December 2011, officials said. She has been placed on paid leave.
Associated Press writer Jill Bleed in Little Rock, Arkansas, contributed to this report.