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KING: African-Americans won't keep trusting broken justice system

Terence Crutcher, 40, was shot and killed by Betty Shelby, a Tulsa, Okla., police officer, in September 2016. Shelby was found not guilty Wednesday of Crutcher's murder.

Terence Crutcher, 40, was shot and killed by Betty Shelby, a Tulsa, Okla., police officer, in September 2016. Shelby was found not guilty Wednesday of Crutcher's murder.

(Facebook)
Shaun King

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Friday, May 19, 2017, 1:37 PM

It took me about two days of cooling off and processing my emotions to be able to say what I think here.

Earlier this week, Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby was found not guilty of murdering Terence Crutcher. What she did was a horrific injustice and her acquittal makes a terrible situation worse.

Terence was completely unarmed, non-violent, and a great distance away from police, when Betty Shelby, claiming she was absolutely terrified of him, shot and killed Crutcher. She wasn't alone, but surrounded on the ground and in the air by her fellow officers. The man appeared to need medical assistance more than anything else. Shooting him was completely avoidable and unnecessary.

Over the past year, I've gotten to know many people on the ground in Tulsa very well. Terence Crutcher, often called "Crutch" or "Big Crutch," was beloved there.

People said that if you knew him once, you knew him forever. His twin sister, Tiffany, is a doctor. Crutch sang in the church choir and was attending local college classes to advance himself. People believed in him.

He struggled privately with drug addiction, but was working to beat it. Millions of Americans have that same story and are given grace and treatment. Terence Crutcher was executed for it.

Shelby's acquittal drew national outrage and shock.

Shelby's acquittal drew national outrage and shock.

(Sue Ogrocki/AP)

When I look at the video of Terence Crutcher the moments before he was killed, I see a brother who desperately needed a compassionate medical intervention. He appeared lost or confused. He needed be put on a stretcher and taken to a hospital, evaluated, treated, and eventually released. All of that was possible.

Terence Crutcher didn't break any laws that day. He wasn't wanted for a crime. The confrontation didn't follow some high-speed chase. No calls went out over the airwaves saying that he was armed and dangerous. Even after police confronted him, he never threatened them physically or verbally.

Betty Shelby was terrified of him because he was big and black — not because he was an actual threat.

As the shooting crushed the hearts of thousands of people in Tulsa, city leaders there, as they do in every single case of police brutality from coast to coast, asked the community to remain calm and trust the system. And as communities of color have always done, from Amadou Diallo to Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice, the community stayed calm, and waited for the system to work.

Then, just like in every single one of those cases, and thousands more like them, the system didn't work. Had Officer Betty Shelby shot a dog that day, she would've likely been found guilty of a crime and sentenced for it. But lucky for her, our justice system often values dogs more than it does a black man like Terence Crutcher.

AP PROVIDES ACCESS TO THIS PUBLICLY DISTRIBUTED HANDOUT PHOTO PROVIDED BY THE TULSA POLICE DEPARTMENT; MANDATORY CREDIT.

Dashcam footage from the Sept. 16, 2016 shooting shows police approach Crutcher as he faces away from the officers with his hands in the air.

(AP)

I've been thinking a lot about the quote from James Baldwin where he says, "To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time."

It was true when Baldwin said it decades ago, and it's true right now. I find myself having to moderate the rage inside of me every single day, as I wade through injustice after injustice, brutality upon brutality.

What are people supposed to do after they patiently wait for the system to work, hoping against all odds that they will be the exception and not the rule, only for the system to spit right in their face like it just did in Tulsa? Are they supposed to just go home and accept it? Are they supposed to simply move on from the injustice and pretend like it never happened? It simply doesn't work like that.

Is that what you would do if someone shot and killed your son or father or brother or best friend in the middle of the day, then beat the rap, and went on about their business? Because that's exactly what Black America is expected to do over and over and over again in this country.

I'm tired of it. I've been tired of it. Everybody I know is tired of it. And as I speak with people from all over the country, from everyday Americans to athletes and entertainers, I hear people growing despondent on the issue of police brutality and accountability.

It's my honest estimation that we are just a few cases of injustice away from the fragile peace in the black community becoming something altogether different.

Tags:
terence crutcher
police shootings
police under investigation
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