TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A judge has reprimanded a white Oklahoma police officer accused in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man for discussing the case on national TV.
Tulsa officer Betty Jo Shelby gave her first interview since the Sept. 16 shooting to CBS’ “60 Minutes” on Sunday.
Judge Doug Drummond issued the formal rebuke Thursday, cautioning attorneys that further publicity could jeopardize the chance of conducting an impartial trial.
“It is obvious this case has drawn significant media interest nationwide since the beginning,” Drummond wrote in the five-page order. “The court is, at a minimum, hopeful that all parties … recognize that pretrial publicity potentially hampers prospects for a fair and impartial trial for both sides.”
In Sunday’s interview, Shelby told correspondent Bill Whitaker that she used lethal force on 40-year-old Terence Crutcher because she feared he was reaching inside his SUV for a gun.
“I’m feeling that his intent is to do me harm and I keep thinking, ‘Don’t do this. Please don’t do this. Don’t make this happen,'” said Shelby, who has pleaded not guilty to first-degree manslaughter and goes on trial May 8.
Shelby told Whitaker that she remembers pulling the trigger.
“It’s like slow motion of me bringing my gun up, my finger coming in and then letting off. And he stopped and then he just slowly fell to the ground,” she said.
Prosecutors contend that Shelby overreacted because Crutcher wasn’t armed or combative when she approached him on a north Tulsa street after his SUV broke down. They say he obeyed orders to raise his hands. After the shooting, investigators determined that Crutcher didn’t have a weapon on him or in his SUV.
The shooting was caught on video from a police helicopter and a dashboard camera. Footage showed Crutcher walking away from Shelby with his arms in the air, but the images don’t provide a clear view of when Shelby fired the single shot.