The Justice Department said that Betty Jo Shelby, the white Tulsa Police Department officer who sparked outrage in 2016 after she was captured on video fatally shooting an unarmed black man while his hands were raised in Tulsa, Okla., will not face federal civil rights charges for his death because there wasn’t enough evidence to pursue the charges.
The DOJ said that it was unable to find sufficient evidence to prove the Shelby willfully used unreasonable force when she killed 40-year-old Terence Crutcher, reports The New York Times.
Shelby was tried last year in a criminal court in Tulsa County and was acquitted of first-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of Crutcher. But the jury questioned her “judgment as a law enforcement officer.”
The jury foreman said if less lethal force had been an option, “serious consideration” must be “given to whether she be allowed to return to practicing law enforcement.”
Shelby claimed she shot Crutcher in September 2016 in self-defense because she said he was reaching into his car to grab what she believed might have been a weapon.
In footage of the ordeal, Crutcher could be seen holding his hands above his head when Shelby shot him.
However, the DOJ said that it hasn’t found sufficient evidence to prove Shelby’s use of force against Crutcher was “objectively unreasonable,” according to the Times.
“Any allegation of law enforcement misconduct and willful deprivation of civil rights is taken seriously,” R. Trent Shores, an attorney representing the Northern District of Oklahoma, said in a statement to the Times.
“However, the evidence in this case did not support pursuing criminal prosecution. Moving forward, I hope that citizens and law enforcement will continue to work together to better our community,” Shores added.
A lawyer for Crutcher’s family released a statement on the Justice Department’s conclusion.
“Part of the problem is the bias in our system against African-Americans, but the problem is also how the law is structured,” Damario Solomon-Simmons told the Times.
“It is almost an impossible burden to prove a federal civil rights violation, so it sets up the scenario where you get these disappointing but not surprising results,” he added.
The police department reassigned Shelby to a desk job following Crutcher’s death, which later prompted her to resign.
Last year, she began teaching a course for other officers on how to “survive such events.”