Ron Barber’s In the Line of Duty training videos have been a tremendous asset to law enforcement for many years. One of his latest is, I submit, a “must see” for working cops. On September 16, 2016, Officer Betty Shelby of the Tulsa, Oklahoma Police Department was enroute to a domestic disturbance when she came across a Lincoln Navigator stopped in the middle of the road, its operator shambling aimlessly about some distance away. He did not respond to her attempt to speak with him, and as a certified DRE (Drug Recognition Expert) she determined he was “on something.” As backup responded, an observer in a police helicopter above the scene came to the same conclusion. The man turned out to be under the influence of a high quantity of PCP augmented by the stronger TCP.
The big guy kept reaching into his pockets. Shelby drew her gun and covered him as he continued to ignore police commands. Her lawyer, Scott Wood told me, “Betty gave him commands for 88 seconds before the shooting. (He) looked at Betty and visually targeted her before reaching in …” — through the open driver’s window of his vehicle as if going for a gun. She screamed at him to stop. He ignored her and continued. Having seen in training films how quickly a man could draw and fire from such positions, she discharged a single 165-gr. .40 S&W Gold Dot round from her department issue GLOCK 22. The bullet struck him in the side and he collapsed instantly. He did not survive.
It turned out he didn’t have a gun after all. The media exploded.
Terence Crutcher, 40, was African-American; Shelby, a 10-year officer, was white. The family of the deceased hired Florida attorney Benjamin Crump, who in turn brought in media specialist Ryan Julison. This was the same team who had created the image of Trayvon Martin as an innocent child murdered by a white racist in Florida. They had also portrayed Michael Brown as the “gentle giant” murdered by a white racist police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.
George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the death of Trayvon Martin at trial. Officer Darren Wilson was cleared by the prosecutor’s office after a lengthy investigation into the death of Michael Brown. And, just as both men were exonerated by extensive FBI/DOJ investigation — Betty Shelby would be investigated by the FBI/DOJ with no Federal charges filed.
But, for now, she was facing a local prosecutor under tremendous political pressure since the shooting had garnered international attention. Six days after the shooting, before the investigation was finished and before a full report had been put in front of him, the prosecutor announced he would charge Officer Betty Shelby with First Degree Manslaughter.
Inside Story: In the Line Of Duty
For some time now, Ron Barber has produced the In the Line of Duty series of police training videos. Shelby and her husband Dave, also a Tulsa cop at the time, detail the nightmare of the shooting’s aftermath, the trial, and the ongoing persecution following. Oklahoma put the “speedy” in “speedy trial” for this one, putting it in front of a jury in May of 2017. She was acquitted by the jury, whose foreman would later write, “The jury concluded any officer put in that situation at that exact moment and regardless of the skin color, gender or size of the suspect would have performed the same way …”
In the In the Line of Duty video, Betty and Dave Shelby shared the following hard-learned advice. Hire defense lawyers who know their stuff. Shelby had two defense attorneys: ex-cop Scott Wood, familiar with police training issues, and Shannon McMurray, experienced in homicide trials. Sign up beforehand for FOP legal defense, or your department’s equivalent. The Fraternal Order of Police paid the $411,000+ legal bill. For private citizens, the analog would be a post-self-defense support group like the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network.
The National Center for Police Defense paid for her security during her trial. Have an emergency nest egg to get you through the trial. It’s hard to find work when you stand charged with murder or manslaughter. Access to psychological and emotional support is critical. Fortunately, TPD had a program in place for officers involved in such critical incidents.
For those who don’t, the film recommends reaching out to www.bluehelp.org and www.thewoundedblue.org. Consider a trust for your personal assets. At the time of the video, Shelby was still a defendant in a pending lawsuit by the family of the deceased. Have a go-bag, and evacuation plans, ready. The Shelbys say they were informed a Black Lives Matter contingent was planning to go to their home en-masse to place her under citizens’ arrest for murder. Seeing the potential for negative outcome, the Shelbys had to flee their own home on short notice.
Be able to articulate your own knowledge of policy and law that informed the actions for which you are being tried. The judge did not allow TPD instructors to testify as to her training. Fortunately, Shelby was able to do so very well herself when she took the witness stand.
The Shelbys have left TPD and now work for separate sheriff’s departments, but their ordeal is ongoing. They have a private company offering training for coping with the aftermath of critical incidents: www.iswb.net. Rob Barber’s policy is to offer his training videos only to bona fide law enforcement, academies, criminal justice programs at the college and high school level, accredited security, or government entities. This one is episode SI46 — Betty Shelby and Surviving the Aftermath of a Fatal O.I.S.
For more info: www.lineofduty.com, Ph: (800) 462-5232