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Terence Crutcher, a catalyst for police reform

Terence Crutcher, a catalyst for police reform

Mic | Published May 8, 2017

By AARON MORRISON, Senior Writer

Terence Crutcher was determined to leave his mark on the world. He often told his twin sister that.

"In one of Terence and I's last conversations, he told me, 'Look, sis. I'm going to be like you when I grow up. I'm going to make you proud, and God is going to get the glory out of my life,'" Tiffany Crutcher, a practicing physical therapist in a suburb of Montgomery, Alabama, said in an exclusive sit-down interview with Mic.

At 40, Terence began pursuing a degree in musical appreciation. He wanted to sing and record gospel music. He attended his family's church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and was involved in its music ministry. That's where he was headed — to church for a music workshop — on the day in September that Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby fatally shot him near his stalled vehicle on a local roadway. Of course, Shelby couldn't have known anything about Crutcher's aspirations.

Instead, Shelby appears to have assumed the worst about Crutcher. She allowed those assumptions to influence a decision to use lethal force against him in a moment when he needed help, Tiffany Crutcher said. That made her actions all the more devastating to the Crutcher family.

On Monday, Shelby's trial begins on a first-degree manslaughter charge. She has said she believed he was reaching for a gun and begged him to obey her commands to freeze and keep his hands visible, but she also feared for her life. Crutcher was unarmed. Of course, Tiffany Crutcher wants to see Shelby convicted. But she is also determined to help her brother keep the promise he made to her. Though she'll never get to buy her brother's debut gospel album, the circumstances of his death will hopefully be catalysts for police reform in Tulsa and across the nation, she said.

Shelby's trial is just one of four trials scheduled in May that involve police officers whose use of lethal force was captured on video in the last two years. Former North Charleston, South Carolina, police officer Michael Slager pleaded guilty on May 2 to a federal criminal civil rights charge, avoiding trial for shooting Walter Scott, who was unarmed, in the back as he fled arrest in April 2015. Slager's federal trial was set to begin this week. Former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing is due in court on May 25 for retrial on a voluntary manslaughter charge in the 2015 shooting death of Samuel DuBose in Cincinnati. On May 30, a trial will open for St. Anthony, Minnesota, police Officer Jeronimo Yanez, who fatally shot Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, in July 2016. Each case intensified calls for policing reform within the fledging Black Lives Matter movement. Those calls haven't lost their fever pitch, even as the Trump administration moves away from an Obama-era push to reduce officers' use of force through reform agreements with police departments.

To read the full story, click here.

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