Tulsa Cop Who Shot Terence Crutcher Has History of Drug Use, Domestic Disturbances

By Paul Gaita 09/27/16

The controversy surrounding the shooting has led to the disclosure of information on Officer Betty Shelby’s career and personal life.

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Tulsa Cop Who Shot Terence Crutcher Has History of Drug Use, Domestic Disturbances
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As federal investigators look into the police shooting of Terence Crutcher, a degree of scrutiny has also been cast on Betty Shelby, the Tulsa, Oklahoma police officer charged with the shooting.

Shelby, 42, who turned herself in on Sept. 23 to face charges of first-degree manslaughter, is accused of fatally shooting Crutcher during an encounter on Sept. 16. Dashboard and helicopter video showed Crutcher with his hands up walking away from police before being Tasered by one officer, Tyler Turnbough, and then fatally shot by Shelby. 

The incident, only the latest police shooting of a black American to be caught on tape, has once again sparked widespread outrage and heated debate over longstanding issues of excessive and lethal force by police officers. Crutcher was unarmed.

The controversy surrounding the shooting has led to the disclosure of information on Shelby’s career and personal life. Though nothing in the releases has direct bearing on the case, incidents of drug use, domestic disturbances and charges of excessive force have raised questions about the officer’s judgment both on and off the job.

Prior to serving with the Tulsa police department, Shelby was a deputy with the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office; in her application for the latter position in 2007, Shelby admitted to possessing and using illegal drugs in the past.

In a statement issued by the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office, Shelby claimed that the incidents were relegated to using marijuana twice when she was a teenager, and she has not “used or experimented with any other illegal drugs before or since that time.”

In regard to the domestic disturbance issue, Shelby noted in the statement that a 1993 breakup with then-boyfriend Darren Mills culminated in both parties deliberately damaging their respective vehicles. Both Shelby and Mills filed emergency ex-partes against each other on the same day, which they later agreed to dismiss.

Shelby was also the subject of a protective order filed by the wife of her ex-husband, with whom Shelby had been involved in a custody battle. The order, which claimed that Shelby had made “harassing phone calls” to the wife’s residence, was eventually denied, according to Shelby.  

The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office added that Shelby’s police record to date is clear of “any disciplinary actions,” but did provide a report of force filed against Shelby, who entered a residence with her firearm drawn while serving a felony warrant to a subject who was hiding from authorities.

Also noted were four letters of commendation received by Shelby, as well as an Oklahoma meritorious service award. Shelby is currently out on a $50,000 bond, and is expected in court on Sept. 30.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites. 

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