After allegedly criminally shooting Terence Crutcher (because despite two separate videos showing her shooting an unarmed man walking away from her with his hands in the air, we still must legally preface any accusation with “allegedly”), Tulsa, Okla., Police Officer Betty Jo “Bad Dude” Shelby has been reprimanded by a District Court judge for her continuing efforts to try her case through the media.
In a five-page formal rebuke, Judge Doug Drummond reminded Shelby that, “It is obvious this case has drawn significant media interest nationwide since the beginning.” The judge warned that Shelby’s willingness to tell her side of the story to the press could taint her upcoming trial, writing, “The court is, at a minimum, hopeful that all parties ... recognize that pretrial publicity potentially hampers prospects for a fair and impartial trial for both sides.”
After a local TV station’s helicopter footage of the shooting of Crutcher went viral, Shelby, whose name resembles that of a third-shift Waffle House waitress, was charged with manslaughter. She is expected to stand trial later this year.
News outlets across the country reported on Shelby’s April 2 appearance on CBS’ 60 Minutes, although every one of them failed to highlight the real story: how Shelby—in two simple sentences—summed up the widespread mentality of police who know they can kill the citizens they are sworn to protect with little or no repercussions:
If I wait to find out if he had a gun or not, I could very well be dead.
There’s something that we always say: “I’d rather be tried by 12 than carried by six.”
In the interview, Deputy Becky didn’t hesitate to paint herself as the real victim and her critics as the criminals, explaining, “My situation was no different than—I don’t know whether I should say this—than a lynch mob coming after me.” She went on to say that the only person responsible for the shooting was Crutcher himself, arguing that if Crutcher “would have communicated with me, if he would’ve just done as I asked him to do, we would not be here.”
The CBS segment was not Shelby’s first attempt to tell her side of the story. In December her attorneys appeared on a radio show, calling Crutcher a “certified gang member” who carried guns regularly. Another one of her attorneys told the Associated Press that Shelby’s defense intended to float the theory that she was temporarily deaf and could not hear the backup officers approaching.
Shelby’s repeated attempts to taint the jury pool and throw her trial is indicative of how rare it is for officers to be convicted in police-shooting deaths (in 2015, a grand total of zero cops were convicted for fatally shooting a citizen while on duty). While she is free to make her pleas to the public, aside from Drummond’s sternly worded letter, there is nothing stopping Shelby from turning the memory of her victim into a stereotyped caricature of the big, black fearsome thug.
When asked for comment, Terence Crutcher was still dead.