The Death of Terrence Crutcher & The Rush to Judgement

Introduction

Here it is, and I will do my best to keep it short.

I don’t excuse bad policing or racist policing for that matter. As an officer, getting rid of those in our ranks who operate in such a manner is beneficial to the society and to good police officers alike. I also know from experience how important it is to put aside our bias or prejudice in favor of a clean slate. It’s taught in academies nationwide and its reinforced daily on each and every call for service. It’s something civilians also must be mindful in examining police actions. 

To the untrained eye and professional police officer alike, the video of the recent shooting taken from a police helicopter is truly disturbing. As in any case involving the loss of a human life, the event that occurred in Tulsa is truly tragic. A man, Terrence Crutcher, is dead. There is no changing that. That said, there are many questions that have yet to be answered about what took place. Some of those questions can be clearly answered by the recently released police video but even then more questions emerge. The following will discuss the facts and circumstances of the incident but I will refrain from making a judgement on the matter – there is simply not enough evidence, too many unanswered questions and too may “what ifs” to make a decision. That said, what happened?

The Incident Facts

Around 7:40 PM on September 16, 2016, police received a 9-1-1 call about an abandoned vehicle in the middle of 36th Street North of Lewis Avenue. According to one caller, Crutcher had run away saying his vehicle might explode.

When Police Officers arrived (4 seen on dashcam video), officers stated Crutcher was not following orders and had reached into his vehicle. Shortly after reaching, Officer Turnbough used a taser device on Crutcher and Officer Shelby fired her gun. Crutcher then fell to the ground and later dies from his wounds at a hospital. Crutcher did not have any weapons on his person or in his vehicle. 

The majority of the pertinent video released comes from a police helicopter on scene. Oddly enough, the helicopter pilot is married to the Officer who shot Crutcher, Officer Shelby. In the video, the helicopter pilots can be heard speaking with one another other and saying, “This guy’s still walking. He isn’t following commands.” “It’s time for a taser, I think.” “I’m kind of thinking that’s about to happen. That looks like a bad dude, too, maybe on something.”

The Department of Justice is currently investigating the matter.

The Unknowns

Unfortunately, as is with most cases involving law enforcement investigations and the media, we are not purvey to the entirety of the information at hand. This has lead some to believe racism or discrimination are the reason(s) why Crutcher was killed. Others have created the own theories. Unfortunately, the narrative has been dominated by the ideal that Crutcher died for one simple reason: because he was black.

This rush to judgement is not a start of a conversation (the dialogue Black Lives Matters wishes to have), instead it merely brings in the preconceived bias’ people have against policing or the entire criminal justice system. Carrying such biases clouds critical thinking and prevents people from making a clear judgement on the matter. 

“Thine Eye can only See and Ear can only Hear what Biases I have already claimed.”

This also goes for police officers viewing the images. We too have biases. But when it comes to matters like this that require a professional opinion, why are people so quick to write-off the voice of the police officer who knows more about the tactics, thoughts, actions and behind the decisions made? 

In the eyes of the trained observer, there are 10 important questions that need to be answered before we can make any type of judgement on the decisions made to shoot by Officer Shelby. So let’s consider them:

  1. When vehicles break down, it’s common place to find them in their own lane of traffic or pulled to the side of the road. In this case, Crutchers vehicle was partially blocking the oncoming lane of traffic. So why is the vehicle blocking 2 lanes of traffic with the engine running?
  2.  If the vehicle broke down and officers were simply responding to the call to assist the driver, why were the officers responding with lights and sirens? Most “light and siren” situations usually indicate: An immediate danger to one’s life or property, A Fire, and Critical infrastructure dangers. This leads me to believe this portion of the narrative is not accurate.
  3. Why does at least one of the callers describe erratic or unusual behavior from Terrence Crutcher?
  4. While standing within 10 feet in the middle of the road, what about Terrence’s behavior or statements lead the initial officer to place Terrence at gunpoint?
  5. Every cop knows that traffic stops or detentions in and around vehicles are where most violent police shootings take place. Knowing this, why would police “allow” (as it is assumed) Terrence to walk back to his vehicle if he is not actively ignoring orders?
  6. What commands were given by Officers on scene and who made said commands?
  7. While it’s not always the case, Helicopters usually assist in situations that sound dynamic or may require an alternate field of vision. What about the call made the helicopter pilots decide to assist? 
  8. Knowing police were actively giving him commands, what made Terrence drop his hands and reach into his vehicle?
  9. Why was a taser initially used followed quickly a gunshot? 
  10. Why does only one officer fire her gun?

The answer to these questions do not change the fact that Crutcher was killed. It also does not change the fact that Crutcher was unarmed. What they actually do is allow us to better understand why certain decision were made by Officers on scene.  Understanding such actions allow officers around the nation better prepare, or learn from the experience. It also helps the layman understand why police officer actions may not be completely unreasonable.

Jumping to Conclusion

“To me it looked like he did everything he was supposed to do.” From Donald Trump to Shaun King, the untrained eye has already made their decision about the incident. In fact, it could be said that the video release did more harm than good in allowing for an unbiased investigation. The release of the video is a tricky political decision. Withholding it suggest the department has something to hide. But showing it only allows bias viewers to create their own narrative regardless of what facts do or do not exist. Regardless of what training they may or may not have.  

Consider the recent terrorism attack in New York and New Jersey committed by Ahmad Rahami. President Obama, Governor Chris Christie and the media collectively chided people to refrain from “jumping to conclusions” regarding the incident and potential involvement of Islamic Terror. The media was quick to echo such statements of their own.

Now consider how the Tulsa shooting has been covered. Less facts and circumstances are known about what occurred in the Tulsa shooting yet media has been quick to condemn Officers and even quicker to blame the shooting on racist persecution. 

Now I ask this, will President Obama chide the media and the black community for their collective jump to a conclusion? Will he come out and speak against the rioters who attacked and injured police officers in North Carolina – no doubt fueled by the false narratives set earlier in the day that there is a “war” on the black community? I doubt it. At least, not in an election season. 

The rush to judgement by media, people and activist is truly immoral and has resulted in the literal harm of people and property. Consider one of the biggest “evidences” people are using to judge the police as bias – the helicopter pilots words. 
“Looks like a bad dude…may be on something.” There are a few responses I have to this so called evidence of Bias. (1) Police consider any suspect or any person not complying with lawful commands as a threat until proven otherwise. It’s not that he is black, but rather he is not complying and walking toward his vehicle. (2) How in any way do these verbal thoughts by the pilot contribute to what happens on the ground? Truth is they do not unless you consider the entirety of law-enforcement as racist. (3) Does the pilot see or recognize something of note that causes him to believe Crutcher was under the influence? If so, there is the difference in the trained eye versus the lay-man. As we discover later, Crutcher is in possession of PCP (which may explain the unusual actions and behavior observed by the initial caller.

Taking in a Terrorist but Killing a Black Man

Let me also address one comparison that has gone viral. It goes like this: 

“A man who is a suspect of terrorism against American civilians, and who attempted to murder police officers, is alive today while an unarmed man who had committed no crime at all is in a morgue awaiting an autopsy.” 

You have probably read it yourself. Me? I have read it one dozen times today and it’s an outrageous comparison. It is not only meant to be an appeal to emotion but it’s a completely failed and illogical argument that skirts the fallacy known as “False Equivalence.”

This statement (and articles created from it) base their opinion (and conclusion) on a fallacy. When it comes to it, leftism is truly void of thoughtful and logical arguments. Consider for a moment this False Equivalence. It suggests that somehow what happened between Tulsa PD and Terrence is comparable to what happened between NJ Police and the terrorist Rahmi?

The mere fact that Rahmi is even alive is purely a stroke of luck. There are videos and reports of a fierce gun battle that involves cover, concealment and multiple locations. It involves two officers being injured and our terror suspect being shot multiple times. Somehow,people who repeat this fallacy make the assumption that “this is how it was meant to be.” They therefore will not respect the nation or it’s anthem because of it. 
People who believe this comparison is worthy of reiteration have accepted the imaginary “Hollywood Marksman” belief that police, soldiers and all good guys with guns are able to simply wound or injure their opponent so they can take them in for information. This is not possible. They then jump to the conclusion that police are able and willing to do that against a terrorist gunmen but not an unarmed Blackman because police are that racist.
Give me a break.

Final Thoughts

As we now deal with a new onslaught of criticism, the police forces of America need to remain firm in their resolve. We are here to do good work. Our ranks are filled with a vast majority of decent and honorable people. Hesitation does nothing but endanger one’s on self when faced with a violent minority criminal. Do your job and do it well.

Police Officers of America are being falsely painted as “racist” and “prejudice” regardless of the actions they take. If it’s not the officer themselves, then blame is placed on “the system.” If Terrence Crutcher were killed by the taser alone (via induced cardiac arrest), would there still not be an outcry? Consider Charlotte, North Carolina: A black police officer shot and killed a black man who pointed a gun at him but the narrative carried by media is this: “A disabled black man is shot and killed by police while reading a book.”

So I ask these question to people sympathetic to the Black Lives Matter movement. (1) Do facts matter? (2) When, in your minds, can a police officer ever use his gun in a justifiable way? 

If the Alton Sterling incident taught us anything it is this: you can be a violent felon, a sex offender, a gang member actively committing several criminal felony offenses, fight with police officers while attempting to remove your loaded gun from your pocket but you will still be considered a martyr worth of protest.

While others may tout Colin Kaepernick’s protest and ask “where are the naysayers now?” I say this, wait for the facts. I am not obligated to stand beside a fellow officer who may have committed an unjustifiable killing. I am not obligated to defend her nor am I saying she is completely innocent. As it was, other officers on scene thought the situation did not require use of a deadly weapon. But do not mistake our silence as belief that Colin’s ignorant protest is correct. Our silence is merely the responsible action that we take every single day – to consider someone “innocent until proven guilty by the court of law.”
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