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Terence Crutcher’s Death Ruled Homicide, Family Says PCP Found in System Did not Warrant Deadly Force

Terence Crutcher. Video screenshot courtesy of NBC News.
Terence Crutcher. Video screenshot courtesy of NBC News.

Terence Crutcher, the unarmed Black man fatally shot by a white Tulsa police officer early last month, had “acute phencyclidine (PCP) intoxication” at the time of the deadly shooting, according to a newly released medical examiner’s report.

The autopsy included results from a toxicology test that showed that Crutcher, 40, had 96 nanograms per millileter of PCP in his system. Traces of a similar drug, tenocyclidine, were also found in the Oklahoma man’s bloodstream, Tulsa World reports.

The fatal shot fired by Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby was determined to be the likely cause of Crutcher’s death, as the single bullet remained lodged in his body and fractured four of his ribs, the report showed.

“The cause of death is penetrating gunshot wound of chest with musculoskeletal and visceral injuries,” the autopsy read. “The manner of death is classified as homicide.”

Shelby shot and killed Crutcher on Sept. 16 when she encountered his stalled SUV blocking traffic on an Oklahoma highway. Police video of the ill-fated encounter showed the Tulsa man with his hands in the air moments before he was shot by the officer.

Shelby maintains that she feared for her life because Crutcher failed to obey her commands and cooperate. She also asserted that the father of four tried to reach through the driver’s side window to retrieve a weapon, which hasn’t been found to be true.

Crutcher’s family has since disputed the officer’s claims, noting that visible blood spatters on the car window prove it was already rolled up at the time of the shooting. His relatives called the discovery of PCP in his system “unfortunate,” but maintain that it wasn’t justification for officer Shelby to shoot and kill him.

“…Today’s toxicology report does not change the most pertinent facts of this tragedy: Officer Betty Shelby shot and killed Terence Crutcher who was, unarmed and had his hands up, without provocation or justification and she should be held accountable for her unlawful actions,” family attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons said in a statement.

Bob Blakemore, a lawyer representing Frenchel Johnson, the mother of Crutcher’s children, called the toxicology report a “distraction [that’s] utterly immaterial to the crucial issue” of Shelby fatally shooting the unarmed man.

“Those, like Mr. Crutcher, who struggle with addiction should receive treatment, not a bullet in the chest,” Blakemore said.

Shelby, who had recently undergone drug-recognition training, told her lawyer she suspected Crutcher was under the influence of PCP at the time of their encounter, due to his odd behavior and refusal to heed her commands. Authorities later retrieved a vial of the dissociative drug from the Oklahoma man’s car.

“[Crutcher] had a very hollow look in his face, kind of a thousand-yard stare, so to speak, and would not communicate,” said Shelby’s attorney, Scott Wood. “And [Shelby] could tell he was not normal. She thought that when she saw him.”

Despite her claims, the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office moved to charge the officer with first-degree manslaughter for Crutcher’s death. According to ABC News, an affidavit filed by an investigator from the DA’s office stated that Shelby acted “unreasonably by escalating the situation from a confrontation.” It also asserted that she became so “emotionally involved” that she overreacted and was unable to “see any weapons or bulges indicating” Crutcher had a weapon.

Shelby was briefly jailed and released on $50,000 bond after being charged on Sept. 22. Her lawyers entered a non-guilty plea on her behalf, after which she was placed on unpaid leave by the Tulsa Police Department.

Per Tulsa World, the officer is in due back in court Nov. 29 to receive a preliminary hearing date.

An attorney for the Crutcher family released this statement Tuesday:

We encourage the public, the media, and law enforcement to resist the temptation to seize upon this all too convenient practice of character assassination in an attempt to divert attention away from meaningful responses to the systematic violence and dehumanization that is far too common in interactions between law enforcement and communities of color.

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