TULSA, OK (KWTV) – A white Oklahoma police officer acquitted in the shooting death of an unarmed black man will be allowed to return to duty Monday, but not on patrol. Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan issued a statement Friday making the announcement in regards to officer Betty Jo Shelby.
Jurors who acquitted a white Oklahoma police officer of killing an unarmed black man last year say the officer could have used a less-lethal method to subdue him that could have saved his life.
The foreman of the jury that found Tulsa officer Betty Jo Shelby not guilty of manslaughter in the death of Terence Crutcher on Wednesday also says in a letter that jurors weren't comfortable with the idea that Shelby was "blameless" in Crutcher's death. The letter to Chief Chuck Jordan says that Shelby should never again be a patrol officer. They felt that Shelby "was a fearful person," and that the jury agreed someone with that mindset should not be on patrol.
One of the 12 jurors told The Frontier he said the jury felt that the state's prosecution "was shoddy," and that they could have gotten a conviction "had they done a better job."
"There were so many holes in their case," he said. "We really felt like they could have gotten a conviction had they presented it better."
He said that while he never came out and said he felt Shelby was guilty, he will always regret not "hanging the jury."
"At one point I talked with another juror about just hanging the jury, and making the state try the case again," he said. "We really agreed that if they did a better job, they could have convicted her. And maybe the right thing to do was just make them do it again, maybe they do something different and a different jury convicts her. I'll always feel like a coward for not doing that."
As tiredness and hunger set in, jurors had no idea how long they would be required to stay in the deliberation room and votes started to trend toward not guilty.
"We also didn't know how long we would have to deliberate," he said. "We were thinking 'How long do we have to stay in here before they do a mistrial? I was kind of irritated because I was hungry, I was tired — we all were — and we kind of felt that we needed to just come to a decision. I talked to one juror about how unhappy we were with the system and how it's kind of broken, and what could we do about it," he said.
Shelby's defense attorney acknowledged that Shelby could have fired a stun gun instead of a firearm but said the officer had to make a "split-second" decision because Shelby thought Crutcher was armed.
Tulsa community leaders say the acquittal of a white Oklahoma police officer who killed an unarmed black man ripped open a long-festering wound. From the mayor's office to schools and churches, race relations have been terrible in Oklahoma's second-largest city for well over a century.