While the entire nation has been arguing about Colin Kaepernick and his right to protest by kneeling during the national anthem, last week, the police in Tulsa, Oklahoma, gave us a horrifying reminder of why the quarterback is protesting to begin with.
Both the US Department of Justice and Oklahoma state authorities have launched investigations into the officer-involved shooting of a 40-year-old black man named Terence Crutcher. Crutcher was fatally shot by police after officers encountered him standing next to his broken down SUV on the highway.
Although the police originally told the Associated Press that the victim had approached the officers, refused to put his hands up, and reached into his vehicle before being killed, the video evidence shows quite the contrary.
The distressingly graphic video evidence which includes multiple camera angles shows Crutcher with his hands raised, appearing to be compliant and completely unarmed. After a police officer named Tyler Turnbough fired off a Taser at the apprehended man, Officer Betty Shelby suddenly fired off a shot from her gun and struck Crutcher, who died in the hospital later that evening. The entire scene was caught on camera by both a police helicopter and a patrol car’s dashcam, though (surprise, surprise) both cameras become slightly obstructed just moments before the fatal action takes place.
Earlier this week, Tulsa’s Police Chief Chuck Jordan confirmed that Mr. Crutcher was both unarmed and did not have a weapon in his vehicle. According to the dashcam video, Crutcher had his hands raised and back turned as he walked away from Officer Shelby, who had her gun pointed at the victim’s back. Less than 30 seconds after backup arrived, Shelby fatally shot the unarmed man next to his broken down vehicle. Even more disturbingly, a handful of minutes passed by before any of the officers on the scene checked the condition of the shooting victim. Circling above the scene, one police officer in the helicopter can be heard referring to victim as a "bad dude."
Officer Shelby has since been put on paid administrative leave, and her lawyer, Scott Wood, maintains that his client believed the Mr. Crutcher had a weapon at the time. The police footage was released to the public for “full transparency and disclosure” from local police, while Tulsa mayor Dewey F. Bartlett Jr. has promised residents that a fair investigation will take place. After watching both videos, Mr. Crutcher’s family spoke at a news conference, calling for criminal charges to be brought to those responsible, but also urging protesters to remain peaceful.
“That big ‘bad dude’ ― his life mattered,” said Crutcher’s twin sister Tiffany Crutcher told reporters on Monday. “The chain breaks here. We’re going to stop it right here in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This is bigger than us right here. We’re going to stop it right here.”
Crutcher was described as a God-loving father of four who sang at church every week. He recently enrolled at a community college in Tulsa, where he hoped to earn a degree, his sister said.
This latest police killing comes at a time where police brutality in African-American communities is at the forefront of the nation's discussion, and rightfully so. Throughout 2016, a number of protests have been held around the country for other black individuals recently killed by police, such as Alton Sterling or Philando Castile. More recently, professional athletes like Colin Kaepernick have decided to use their platform to bring attention to this issue of police brutality, a movement that more and more NFL players seem joining by the day.
Now, with all of the evidence showing the Officer Shelby to be in the wrong, we all must eagerly await to see if the Tulsa justice system does its job impartially and makes the correct call. According to CNN, the Justice Department appears to be getting involved in the investigation as well, which will hopefully help ensure that an unbiased and just decision is made. Unfortunately, the lack of consequences that police officers have faced for killing minorities has left many without hope for justice.
So, next time you hear someone complaining about Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem at his next NFL game, you can show them this saddening video footage to remind them why this controversial form of protest is happening in the first place.
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