May 18, 2017 / 5:11 PM / 2 years ago

Tulsa braces for protests after officer acquitted for killing unarmed man

TULSA, Okla. (Reuters) - Police in Tulsa, Oklahoma, were preparing for protests on Thursday after a white officer was acquitted by a jury of killing an unarmed black man in a case that stirred tensions over racial bias in policing.

FILE PHOTO: Tulsa, Oklahoma Police Officer Betty Shelby, 42, charged with first-degree manslaughter in the death of 40-year-old Terence Crutcher, is shown in this Tulsa County Jail booking photo in Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S., September 23, 2016. Courtesy Tulsa County Jail/Handout via REUTERS

Officer Betty Shelby, 43, who is white, was found not guilty by a jury on Wednesday night on a charge of manslaughter after a week-long trial for fatally shooting Terence Crutcher, an African-American, in September 2016 after his car was blocking a road.

Police videos of the incident were seen globally, and some civil rights advocates argued race was a factor in the shooting. Shelby has insisted her actions were driven entirely by the behavior of the man she shot.

The Crutcher case was another in a string of deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of the police in the United States that has spawned periodic protests and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Crutcher can be seen with his hands in the air shortly before he was shot and walking toward his vehicle. Tulsa police have said Crutcher, 40, was unarmed and there was no weapon in his vehicle.

“We are prepared for anything but we are expecting exactly what we got last night - peaceful protests,” Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan told a news conference.

Scores of people demonstrated without major incident in Tulsa on Wednesday night after the verdict was announced.

Jordan said department officials and others were looking at how Shelby would return to work after being on administrative leave.

Shelby told the jury she believed Crutcher may have been reaching into the vehicle through a partially open window in search of a weapon. She said she was taught during training if a suspect reaches into a car, an officer does not let them pull their arm back because they might be holding a gun.

Prosecutors have said there was no reason for Shelby to fire on a man who was walking away from her. They blame her for turning a routine traffic matter into a deadly confrontation by acting unreasonably and escalating the situation.

“Let it be known that I believe in my heart that Betty Shelby got away with murder, and I don’t know what was in the mind of that jury,” Joseph Crutcher, the father of the man killed by the officer, told reporters on Wednesday night.

Reporting by Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton; Writing Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Matthew Lewis

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