Officer in Tulsa Shooting Has Worst Defense Ever


Officer Betty Shelby made national headlines on September 16th when she shot Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man (shocking) in the back, resulting in Crutcher's death. Crutcher was walking away from Shelby with his arms up, which apparently turned the innocuous situation of a broken down car, in to a life and death one in the mind of the jittery officer. Shelby has been charged with First Degree Manslaughter in the wake of the shooting, and has entered a plea of not guilty, despite the numerous camera angles that prove otherwise. “So how can such a plea be feasible?”, your inquiring mind asks. A stress-borne state called auditory exclusion.

Let's start at the beginning. There's no shortage of loopholes and bylaws that dictate the legality of deadly force by police, but the generally accepted standard is that a person has to present a direct threat to the safety of officers or citizens. Walking away with your hands in the air hardly seems to qualify under that caveat. If an immediate threat of safety towards an innocent human being is where we as a society have placed the line for deadly force, then this behavior doesn't even come close to crossing it. It's not a good start for Officer Shelby.

But what about the amazing 'Auditory Exclusion' defense that the brilliant litigious minds behind Shelby concocted? What does it entail? The formal definition is as follows: “Auditory exclusion is a form of temporary loss of hearing occurring under high stress. As such it is related to tunnel vision and "the slowing of time in the mind". The phenomenon is discussed in the literature on law enforcement officers and soldiers.” The most interesting portion of the definition seems to be the end. You know, the part where it's explained that this is a state often associated with cops and soldiers. It raises the red flag that this entire concept may have been developed as a contingency to excuse devastating mistakes made by people who have the option of solving workplace inconveniences with life-ending violence.

Just to be clear, there isn't a lot of evidence that supports the idea that auditory exclusion is a myth. Hell, there isn't much evidence (yet) that claims that Shelby didn't experience this phenomenon of the biological world for herself. The part that makes this an almost laughable defense is the way that her lawyers are using it.

The claim is that Betty Shelby was under the hypnotic effects of this condition, which prohibited her from hearing the rumbling cacophony of the back up which had arrived prior to the shooting. She was of the idea that she was all alone on this Tulsa road with this dangerous maniac. What choice did she have? All the signs that her life was at risk were there. He was having car trouble outside of the shoulder of the lane (a traffic violation in every state). He had his hands up, clearly in an attempt to summon his invisible arsenal of floating weapons into his waiting hands. He had four kids, so he was obviously a perverted sex addict. He was taking music classes in college. Ever heard anyone say “Music is my weapon”? Of course you have. And, worst of all, he was super black and walked away from a cop.

The fact of the matter is that it would be irrelevant if Shelby was stone deaf when she pulled that trigger. She shot an unarmed man in the back while his hands were up. She displayed a level of cowardice that is unfitting of any decent human being, let alone a cop. Her behavior, along with the myriad of other officers who have committed similar atrocities over the past couple of years, has served to reaffirm my personal suspicions that “Jumpiness 101” must be a mandatory course to earn that shiny badge. This weak little joke of a defense flies in the face of every citizen who is tired of innocent people being gunned down in the street, while state sponsored murderers get paid time off for taking us out.

The only light at the end of this story's tunnel is that there was an indictment this time. But this is a dangerous shell game. If Shelby is convicted, it may encourage other officers to take a god damned breath before they shoot a man through his heart while his back is turned and his gunless hands are in the air. However, if she walks away using this flimsy excuse as a bridge, then it turns on the green light for every cop who thinks that his safety trumps that of the public. This could well be the tipping point, and it's anyone's guess how this will play out.

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