More than 1,000 people came out Saturday night in Tulsa, Okla., to celebrate the life and mourn the tragic death of Terence Crutcher.
Crutcher, who was 40 years old, died at the hands of Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby on Sept. 16. Crutcher was unarmed and reportedly had his hands in the air for much of the confrontation with police officers after his car broke down. Shelby has been charged with first-degree manslaughter in Crutcher’s death and is out on bond.
Crutcher’s services were held at the Antioch Baptist Church in Tulsa, and Tulsa World reports that about 750 family members, friends and community leaders squeezed into the church’s sanctuary, while another few hundred packed into overflow rooms to watch the service on two screens.
The New York Times reports that the service was a rollicking, nearly-three-hour homegoing celebration with gospel music and praise dancing at the center. Those who spoke included Crutcher family lawyer Damario Solomon-Simmons, Crutcher’s cousins the Rev. A. Cortes Rex and Shea Seals, Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett, Sen. Kevin Matthews and the Rev. Barbara Shannon.
According to the Times, Crutcher was a native of Tulsa, born three minutes before his twin sister, Tiffany Crutcher. He was the father of four children ages 4 to 16 and a 17-year-old stepson.
Crutcher was a preacher’s kid. His father, the Rev. Joey Crutcher, and his wife, Leanna, learned of their son’s death while inside the church in Antioch. His father was reportedly playing the organ, and his mother was directing a choir when two of Crutcher’s sisters walked in, put their arms around their parents and broke the awful news.
The first speaker at the service was Solomon-Simmons, who talked about the man Crutcher was and how his death could just as easily have been his own.
“It could have been me,” said Solomon-Simmons, “because, just like Terence, I’m 40 years old, and just like Terence, I’m bald-headed, and just like Terence, some people think I look like a bad dude, but just like I am, Terence was not a bad dude.”
Many of the speakers acknowledged Crutcher’s love of music, and his cousin Seals, an assistant basketball coach at the University of Tulsa, said that music was Crutcher’s passion, along with his children.
“It was a wonderful release, and a way for him to show how thankful he was for life,” Seals said, according to Tulsa World.
The Times describes a moment when mourners heard Crutcher’s voice as he sang a gospel ballad that his late brother wrote and that Crutcher had recorded.
“He’s always been known as Crutch, Big Crutch and even Fat Crutch,” Seals acknowledged. “I’ve known you pretty much all my life, and you’ve never been known as a bad dude, not a bad dude. We’re going to miss you, bro. We love you,” he said.
“I feel very fortunate to have spent 40 years with him, but I’m also devastated,” Seals continues. “I’m devastated because it should have been 40 more.”
Mayor Bartlett spoke during the service, addressing the family and saying, “I’m so very sorry” on behalf of the city.
Barbara Shannon, a pastor at New Heights Christian Center, which Crutcher and his family attended, said that though Crutcher had been through some trials, he was always a stand-up person.
“It didn’t matter what he was struggling with; his attitude never changed,” she said.
She added that his life had made a difference in the world.
“A lot of good is going to come from this baby’s sacrifice,” Shannon said.