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Tulsa officer acquitted in man's death returning to force

Betty Shelby leaves the courtroom with her husband, Dave Shelby, right, after the jury in her case began deliberations in Tulsa, Okla., Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Shelby, who fatally shot an unarmed black man last year, was found not guilty later Wednesday of first-degree manslaughter. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Betty Shelby leaves the courtroom with her husband, Dave Shelby, right, after the jury in her case began deliberations in Tulsa, Okla., Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Shelby, who fatally shot an unarmed black man last year, was found not guilty later Wednesday of first-degree manslaughter. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum, left, listens as Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan speaks during a press conference, Thursday, May 18, 2017, in Tulsa, Okla., about the not guilty verdict in Tulsa police office Betty Jo Shelby's manslaughter trial.  A jury on Wednesday acquitted Shelby, a white Oklahoma police officer who says she fired out of fear last year, when she killed Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man with his hands held above his head. (Mike Simons/Tulsa World via AP)
Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum, left, listens as Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan speaks during a press conference, Thursday, May 18, 2017, in Tulsa, Okla., about the not guilty verdict in Tulsa police office Betty Jo Shelby's manslaughter trial. A jury on Wednesday acquitted Shelby, a white Oklahoma police officer who says she fired out of fear last year, when she killed Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man with his hands held above his head. (Mike Simons/Tulsa World via AP)
Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan speaks during a press conference, Thursday, May 18, 2017, in Tulsa, Okla., about the not guilty verdict in Tulsa police office Betty Jo Shelby's manslaughter trial.  A jury on Wednesday acquitted Shelby, a white Oklahoma police officer who says she fired out of fear last year, when she killed Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man with his hands held above his head.
 (Mike Simons/Tulsa World via AP)
Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan speaks during a press conference, Thursday, May 18, 2017, in Tulsa, Okla., about the not guilty verdict in Tulsa police office Betty Jo Shelby's manslaughter trial. A jury on Wednesday acquitted Shelby, a white Oklahoma police officer who says she fired out of fear last year, when she killed Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man with his hands held above his head. (Mike Simons/Tulsa World via AP)
Protestors gather in front of the Mayo Hotel after a not guilty verdict for Tulsa Police Officer Betty Jo Shelby is announced at the Tulsa County Courthouse Wednesday, May 17, 2017, in Tulsa, Okla. Oklahoma's Republican Gov. Mary Fallin has called for calm after a jury found a Tulsa police officer not guilty in the shooting of an unarmed black man last year. (Ian Maule/Tulsa World via AP)
Protestors gather in front of the Mayo Hotel after a not guilty verdict for Tulsa Police Officer Betty Jo Shelby is announced at the Tulsa County Courthouse Wednesday, May 17, 2017, in Tulsa, Okla. Oklahoma's Republican Gov. Mary Fallin has called for calm after a jury found a Tulsa police officer not guilty in the shooting of an unarmed black man last year. (Ian Maule/Tulsa World via AP)
Tiffany Crutcher, sister of Terence Crutcher, and Benjamin Crump speak during a press conference in Tulsa, Okla., Thursday, May 18, 2017 after a Wednesday not guilty verdict in the manslaughter trial of Betty Shelby, a white Oklahoma police officer who fatally shot Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man. Crutchers' family has called on Tulsa city leadership to block Shelbyfrom returning to her job. (Stephen Pingry/Tulsa World via AP)
Tiffany Crutcher, sister of Terence Crutcher, and Benjamin Crump speak during a press conference in Tulsa, Okla., Thursday, May 18, 2017 after a Wednesday not guilty verdict in the manslaughter trial of Betty Shelby, a white Oklahoma police officer who fatally shot Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man. Crutchers' family has called on Tulsa city leadership to block Shelbyfrom returning to her job. (Stephen Pingry/Tulsa World via AP)
Shannon McMurray, left, and Scott Wood, defense attorneys for Tulsa police officer Betty Jo Shelby, leave the courtroom following a motion in Tulsa, Okla., Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Shelby was charged with first-degree manslaughter in the fatal shooting of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man. Shelby was found not guilty. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Shannon McMurray, left, and Scott Wood, defense attorneys for Tulsa police officer Betty Jo Shelby, leave the courtroom following a motion in Tulsa, Okla., Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Shelby was charged with first-degree manslaughter in the fatal shooting of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man. Shelby was found not guilty. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
A group of protesters block Denver Ave. near the Tulsa County Courthouse following the not guilty verdict in Betty Jo Shelby's manslaughter trial in Tulsa, Okla., on Thursday, May 18, 2017. Oklahoma's Republican Gov. Mary Fallin has called for calm after a jury on Wednesday found a Tulsa police officer not guilty in the shooting of an unarmed black man, Terence Crutcher, last year. (Mike Simons/Tulsa World via AP)
A group of protesters block Denver Ave. near the Tulsa County Courthouse following the not guilty verdict in Betty Jo Shelby's manslaughter trial in Tulsa, Okla., on Thursday, May 18, 2017. Oklahoma's Republican Gov. Mary Fallin has called for calm after a jury on Wednesday found a Tulsa police officer not guilty in the shooting of an unarmed black man, Terence Crutcher, last year. (Mike Simons/Tulsa World via AP)
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Friday, May 19, 2017 07:13 pm

TULSA, Okla. A white Oklahoma police officer acquitted in an unarmed black man's shooting death will be back on the force next week, even as jurors who declared her not guilty of manslaughter unanimously agreed she should never return to patrol.

Tulsa police Chief Chuck Jordan issued a one-sentence statement Friday in which he said Betty Jo Shelby is reinstated. It comes a day after black community leaders rallied, urging city leaders to block the 43-year-old officer from getting back her job. She had been on unpaid leave since Sept. 22 when she was charged in the death.

Some leaders were taken aback by Shelby's quick reinstatement.

"The decision today was obviously a slap in the face, and I think that's how a lot of the black community feels," said Anthony Scott, pastor at First Baptist Church North Tulsa. "It's like pouring salt on a wound."

Shelby's attorneys said she'll rejoin the force Monday, but in limited capacity. The 10-year law enforcement veteran is barred from street patrol while an internal affairs investigation into the Sept. 16 shooting of 40-year-old Terence Crutcher plays out.

Shortly before the announcement of Shelby's reinstatement, the foreman of the jury that acquitted her Wednesday said in a court filing that if Shelby had thought to use her stun gun before Crutcher reached his stalled sport utility vehicle, the decision "could have saved his life."

"Many on the jury could never get comfortable with the concept of Betty Shelby being blameless for Mr. Crutcher's death," the foreman wrote. The jurors didn't identify themselves in the memo filed in court.

Another member of the jury told local news site The Frontier that various jurors thought Shelby could work a desk job or perhaps be another type of emergency responder just not an officer on street patrol.

"I don't think she's a bad person," he told the publication, speaking on condition of anonymity because jurors didn't want to be associated with the highly charged case. "She just shouldn't be a cop."

The jury of eight women and four men, including three blacks, deliberated for about nine hours before reaching its verdict late Wednesday, prompting about 100 residents gathered outside the courthouse to protest the outcome.

Shelby's attorney, Shannon McMurray, acknowledged Friday that Shelby could have deployed her stun gun instead of a firearm, but said the officer had to make a "split-second" decision because she thought Crutcher was armed. No weapon was found.

"Could she have used a Taser? Yes. Might she be dead? Yes," McMurray said. "It's a classic law school exam: All the answers are right, but which ones are the most right?"

Shelby's police partner, Tyler Turnbough, deployed his stun gun at the same time she fired her handgun. Turnbough told a national police aid group last month that Shelby had no way of knowing what Crutcher was reaching for and that "to take a chance could be deadly."

A spokesman for the Crutcher family didn't return calls seeking comment on Shelby's reinstatement.

McMurray said Shelby's return to the force means "she's getting the due process she wasn't afforded when (prosecutors) jumped the gun and charged her."

Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler, who filed the first-degree manslaughter charge six days after the shooting, declined to comment Friday.

Crutcher was shot after Shelby approached him in a city street where his SUV had broken down.

Shelby had said she fired her weapon out of fear because Crutcher ignored her commands to lie down and kept reaching into his pockets.

But prosecutors said she overreacted, arguing that Crutcher had his hands in the air and wasn't combative part of which was confirmed by police video that showed him walking away from Shelby with his hands above his head.

Crutcher's family said the verdict was a setback to racial harmony in Tulsa. They said the acquittal shows a larger failure of the legal system and by extension society to recognize the value of a black man's life. Their heartbreak echoed that of families across the U.S. following a spate of killings of blacks that has fueled a national debate over race and policing.

"The wedge that existed (Wednesday) has become the mountain range that we must climb today," said Anthony R. Douglas, the NAACP's Oklahoma chapter president.

About 16 percent of Tulsa's roughly 400,000 residents are black. Racial disparities in mostly black north Tulsa include neighborhoods without a real grocery store and a ZIP code where a black baby has 10 years less life expectancy than a white baby. One swath has yet to recover economically from a 1921 race riot where hundreds of black residents were killed and homes and businesses were burned.

     

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