An American court Wednesday acquitted a police officer, Betty Shelby, who shot an unarmed African-American man dead, of manslaughter. The incident happened in the southern city of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
According to KFOR-TV, a local television station, a jury deliberated for nine hours before acquitting Shelby.
The police officer, a Caucasian, was charged in September after killing Terence Crutcher, whose car had broken down on a Tulsa Street.
Shelby said she shot 40-year-old Crutcher because she feared for her life, thinking he was reaching for a gun in his vehicle. Authorities later determined that Crutcher did not have a gun.
Prosecutors argued that the deceased had not made any aggressive moves, but Shelby’s defense attorneys said he ignored the officer’s commands.
In video footage from a dashboard camera, Crutcher is seen with his hands up, leaning against his car. He is then shot once in the chest by Shelby and falls to the ground.
The shooting, the latest in a string of fatal shootings of unarmed African-Americans by police across the United States, led to protests and an increase in tensions in Tulsa.
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin appealed for calm in a statement late Wednesday.
“I ask Oklahomans to respect our criminal justice system and especially the jurors, who heard the evidence from both sides in this case.
“Those who disagree with the verdict have the right to express their opinions; I just ask that they do so in a peaceful manner. I appeal to Tulsans and others to remain calm”, Fallin said.
- Bola Kougbe