Police found PCP in the vehicle used by Terence Crutcher the night he was fatally shot by an officer, a Tulsa Police Department official confirmed to the Tulsa World on Tuesday afternoon.
The attorney for the Tulsa police officer who fatally shot Crutcher had said Monday that the officer, Betty Shelby, thought he was acting like he might be under the influence of that drug.
Homicide Sgt. Dave Walker, who confirmed that a vial of PCP was found, declined to say where in the vehicle investigators recovered it, nor did he say whether officers determined that Crutcher, 40, had used it Friday evening.
The Medical Examiner’s Office is expected to provide toxicology information as part of a larger autopsy report.
Police have said Shelby shot Crutcher once in the upper right part of his chest at 36th Street North near Lewis Avenue about 7:45 p.m. Friday. Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan said during a Monday afternoon news conference that Crutcher was unarmed.
Attorney Benjamin Crump, in apparent response to the new information, said during a Tuesday afternoon news conference that “if we started to condemn everybody to death who might have some drugs in their system, all our neighborhoods would be affected. And so we know that’s not correct.”
Crump, who has represented multiple families across the country in police use-of-force cases, was among four attorneys speaking on behalf of the Crutcher family at a Tuesday afternoon news conference at the Tulsa County Courthouse. He said the allegation about Crutcher possessing drugs shouldn’t be seen as cause for Shelby to fire her gun.
“Let us not be thrown a red herring and to say because something was found in the car that is justification to shoot him,” Crump said. Police released on Monday two 911 calls made Friday reporting that an SUV had been abandoned in the middle of 36th Street North, with one anonymous caller telling a dispatcher that a man she saw there might be “smoking something.” Jordan said that day that Shelby “happened upon” the stopped vehicle while en route to an unrelated call.
Attorney Scott Wood, who represents Shelby, told the World previously that his client believed that Crutcher was under the influence of PCP, based on things she learned during drug-recognition expert training. Helicopter camera footage also showed that an unidentified officer said Crutcher “looked like a bad dude” who “could be on something” shortly before he hit the ground.
But Attorney David Riggs, speaking on behalf of the family, said the officers at the scene did not interact with Crutcher appropriately. Family members have alleged that the comment was made out of racial bias.
“You have to ask yourself what is the proper way to handle a situation where someone is acting in a strange way and perhaps not entirely in control of his emotions, mentality, mental state at that time,” Riggs said. “We can’t begin treating everyone in our society, whichever level they might be from, as someone who is a threat to the rest of us because they have a serious condition known as drug addiction.”
As previously reported, Crutcher has a criminal record that includes more than a dozen encounters with law enforcement. In at least four cases, officers employed use of force, including a Taser in 2012, according to records.
A 2012 probable cause affidavit in a misdemeanor case against Crutcher states that his father arrived at the scene in north Tulsa where Terence Crutcher was being arrested on public intoxication and obstruction complaints and told officers his son had “an ongoing problem” with PCP.
An officer used a Taser on Crutcher twice during that arrest while he was face down on the ground, based on the officer’s claim that Crutcher did not comply with at least three orders to show his hands.
The Oklahoma Department of Corrections told the World on Tuesday that Crutcher had been incarcerated on a drug-related conviction for nearly four years and was released on parole in 2011. His supervision ended in May of this year. Court records indicate that a judge issued a bench warrant for Crutcher’s arrest Sept. 1 for failure to pay fines related to his cases.
Crutcher’s attorneys say his history is not relevant, and the Tulsa Police Department has acknowledged that officers weren’t aware of his background during the encounter.
“Officers did not know anything in reference to the individual prior to the contact,” Officer Jeanne MacKenzie, a police spokeswoman, told the World on Saturday.
Dispatch audio released Monday revealed that an officer ran a background check on Crutcher’s license plate, which found nothing indicating that a warrant had been issued for his arrest.
“It’s undisputed that the officers on the scene (Friday night) had no idea what may be in Terence’s car,” family attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons said during a press conference Tuesday. “They had no idea about the previous 911 calls. At that particular moment he was shot, he was not a suspect for any crime. Period.”
MacKenzie declined to comment further on the case Tuesday, citing the pending investigations by the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Affidavits related to the search of Crutcher’s vehicle for evidence haven’t yet been filed with the Court Clerk’s Office. It’s not yet clear when the Police Department will provide reports to either investigating agency.