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US police officer charged for shooting unarmed African-American in Tulsa

Shelby has been charged with a felony count of first-degree manslaughter which carries a minimum sentence of four years in prison if convicted. Photograph: (Reuters)

Tulsa, Oklahoma, Stati Uniti Sep 23, 2016, 02.21 AM (IST)
A female police officer in the southern US city of Tulsa in Oklahoma was charged on Thursday with manslaughter for fatally shooting an African-American man last week. 

A warrant has been issued for officer Betty Shelby's arrest over the death of 40-year-old Terence Crutcher, the Tulsa county district attorney was quoted as saying by international news agency Reuters. 

The incident that has yet again raised questions of racial bias in US policing was captured by dashboard cameras and a police helicopter. 

In the video, Crutcher can be seen with his hands up, leaning against his car. He falls to the ground after getting shot by the police officer. 

[Warning: footage contains graphic violence]



According to AFP, the Tulsa district attorney's chief investigator, Doug Campbell, has said in a court filing that the 40-year-old was shot when he was trying to reach into his car's driver's side front window. The lawyer representing the Crutcher family held a press conference where he displayed zoomed-in pictures from the video footage to show that the driver's window was closed.

Campbell said: "Officer Shelby reacted unreasonably by escalating the situation from a confrontation with Mr Crutcher, who was not responding to verbal commands and was walking away from her with his hands held up, becoming emotionally involved to the point that she overreacted." 

According to CNN, the confrontation started after a 911 call on Friday from a woman who informed that  "an abandoned car was blocking the street and a man was running away". 

The caller reportedly insisted that the man warned that it was going to blow up. 

The CNN report further points out that Shelby was the first officer to arrive on the scene, though she was not responding to the 911 call. Her attorney has been quoted as saying by CNN that she was on her way to a domestic violence call when she saw Crutcher.

The chief invesitgator further pointed out on Thursday that Shelby claimed she had been "in fear of her life" during the confrontation. However, no weapons were recovered from the site of the incident. It's been established that Crutcher was unarmed. Crutcher later died at a hospital from a single gunshot wound to the chest. 

Following the latest development, the victim's twin sister, Tiffany Crutcher, has applauded the quick action of the district attorney. 

"We will stay vigilant as this process moves forward and join the others, peacefully, in demanding greater accountability and transparency from law enforcement," she told reporters. "We're demanding full prosecution. We want a conviction."

The Department of Justice has opened a federal civil rights probe, parallel to the investigation being carried out by local authorities.  

The incident has triggered largely peaceful protests in Tulsa, however, unlike in Charlotte, North Carolina, where protests in response to another police kiling an African American man have seen violence. 

A group of activists, We the People Oklahoma, took to Twitter on Thursday afternoon ahead of the planned protests, and asserted that "lot more needs to be done". News On 6 says the grassroots organisation drew a large crowd Thursday evening, calling for "action and policy changes". Organisers say they're "pleased" that Officer Shelby was charged only six days after the incident.

"It just feels good that we have people being peaceful, and it feels good that we're not trying to cause any chaos, cause a riot. We're trying to be peaceful as possible, but at the same time it takes time to heal," Trevon McLemore said.
 

The Tulsa Police department had faith that the protests would likely be peaceful. 
 
(WION with inputs from agencies) 
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