The district attorney in the southern US city of Tulsa on Thursday charged the police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man with first-degree manslaughter.
The shooting of Terence Crutcher on Friday, recorded by dashboard cameras and a police helicopter, lead to heightened tensions between yet another US police department and African-Americans.
In the video, the 40-year-old man is seen with his hands up and leaning against his car. He is then shot once by officer Betty Shelby and falls to the ground.
In a court filing, the Tulsa district attorney’s chief investigator Doug Campbell said Crutcher was shot when reaching into his car’s driver’s side front window. Another responding officer used a Taser at the same time.
“Officer Shelby reacted unreasonably by escalating the situation from a confrontation with Mr Crutcher, who was not responding to verbal commands and was walking away from her with his hands held up, becoming emotionally involved to the point that she overreacted,” Campbell said.
Crutcher, who had no gun, died at a hospital from a single gunshot wound to the chest.
Shelby was charged with a felony count of first-degree manslaughter — heat of passion, which carries a minimum sentence of four years in prison if convicted. In the charging document, Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweller called her actions “unreasonable.”
The Department of Justice has opened a federal civil rights probe into the incident, parallel to the investigation being carried out by the local authorities.
Demonstrators in Tulsa, in the state of Oklahoma, had demanded that the officer be punished. But protests have remained peaceful so far, unlike in Charlotte, North Carolina where the shooting death of a black man at the hands of police on Tuesday set off two nights of clashes between law enforcement and demonstrators.