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For Crutcher Family, Chauvin Guilty Verdict Bittersweet: 'We Wish That Would Have Been Betty Shelby'

Chris Polansky
Dr. Tiffany Crutcher follows news of the Derek Chauvin verdict on her phone, alongside Rev. Joe Crutcher, in downtown Tulsa on Tuesday. Terence Crutcher, their brother and son, respectively, was killed by Tulsa police in 2016. His killer was acquitted.

The Reverend Joe Crutcher says he's kept a close watch on happenings in Minneapolis since last May, when video of police officer Derek Chauvin killing George Floyd made international headlines and sparked a worldwide movement against systemic racism and police violence.

"Me and my wife, we'd sit up and watch the whole George Floyd episode as it unfolded last year," Crutcher said at a press conference in downtown Tulsa Tuesday afternoon, shortly after a Minnesota jury handed down a guilty verdict against Chauvin for Floyd's murder.

"We were by the television each night watching that, and when the trial was -- when the officer was indicted, we were there watching that," Crutcher said. "Well, it is a bittersweet moment, simply because we do see justice. Justice was done. But for the Crutcher family, there is no justice."

Crutcher's son, Terence Crutcher, was shot to death by white Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby in an incident that grabbed national attention in 2016. She was acquitted for killing Crutcher, who was unarmed.

"It's definitely a bittersweet moment for my family here in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We wish that would have been Betty Shelby," said Dr. Tiffany Crutcher, Terence's twin sister and the founder of the Terence Crutcher Foundation, a nonprofit that seeks to remedy inequities in policing and other facets of society. She noted her mother "went to her grave" before seeing justice for her son.

"But today is a hopeful day for so many families traumatized by police violence in this country," she said.

Dr. Crutcher said in the moments after the verdict was announced, her phone lit up with messages from across the country.

"The sisters of Botham Jean and Sandra Bland, and Eric Garner's mother, and Mike Brown's mother -- so many of our families that didn't ask to be in this group, this fraternity, this sorority. And they are all just simply saying, 'Thank you Jesus, thank you God, that we finally get to breathe again,'" she said. 

"We are relieved to see a guilty verdict, but we must have true, sustainable, substantial policy reforms and changes here in this city," said Damario Solomon-Simmons, Crutcher family attorney. "Since Terence was killed in 2016, we have not had one tangible, substantial policy change here in the city of Tulsa as it relates to policing. Not one."

Community organizer and former mayoral candidate Greg Robinson said the guilty verdict was a relief, but in some ways just the smallest of steps toward true justice.

"The reality is that today feels no different for me as a Black man in this country. I know it feels no different for the Crutcher family that stands behind me who has yet to see their day of justice, who cannot bring Terence back. The reality is that as we got a guilty verdict today, George Floyd is not coming back," Robinson said.

"Why is it that we can watch a man be knelt on for nine minutes and 52 seconds and wonder what the verdict is going to be?" Robinson said. "What kind of culture do we have when we are still asking, 100 years from the [1921 Tulsa] Race Massacre ... Do Black lives still matter in Tulsa? What kind of culture are we allowing to persist in our city?"

"When are we as Tulsans going to be able to move beyond the words?" Robinson asked. "When are we going to move beyond the newspaper headlines that talk about one Tulsa, that talk about wanting to come together, and yet we never have the courage to put it on paper? We never have the courage to show that Black lives matter. We never have the courage to do the difficult thing.

"Today, Minneapolis did the difficult thing. They stood up for the humanity of all of us. So I implore this city that we all so love, that we fight for every single day, I implore us to take the steps and do the right thing, to follow the lead of our fellow Americans in Minneapolis."

The Rev. Crutcher echoed the sentiment.

"We stand here today and we ask the city of Tulsa: What are you going to do?" he said. "Are you going to be like Minneapolis? They're a class-act city. What are we supposed to be? Are we class-act? Like I say to everybody: Tulsa, Oklahoma, is slow. They don't like hearing that but that's my concern. It's a slow city. Minneapolis is a fast city. They did what was right. We need some justice for the Crutcher family."

In a statement posted to Facebook, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum praised the verdict and the American criminal justice system.

"Today’s verdict is a reminder that our justice system works, and that accountability will be rendered for those who betray that sacred trust between guardians and the citizens they protect," Bynum said.

Bynum told CBS News in June of last year that he did not believe Terence Crutcher's killing was related to race, instead blaming the "insidious nature of drug utilization." He later apologized for what he called a "dumb and overly-simplistic answer."

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.
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