The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) joined national, Tulsa, and Baton Rouge-based civil rights leaders and stakeholders today in a letter to the Southeastern Homicide Investigators Association (SEHIA), opposing the group’s decision to invite the officer who killed Terence Crutcher, an unarmed Black man, to headline its annual conference next week in Baton Rouge. According to the conference’s website, the officer, Deputy Sheriff Betty Jo Shelby, plans to give a speech entitled “Surviving the Aftermath of a Critical Incident,” teaching SEHIA’s many homicide officers how she survived the aftermath of killing Terrence Crutcher. The letter asks SEHIA to rescind its invitation to Deputy Shelby as well as two other officers who served with Deputy Shelby in the Tulsa Police Department and plan to also speak about incidents surrounding Mr. Crutcher’s death.
As the detailed letter makes clear, Terence Crutcher was the victim of a homicide that Deputy Shelby committed. Though Deputy Shelby has stated that Mr. Crutcher was neither belligerent nor aggressive, she fatally shot him within mere minutes of speaking with him. Allowing Deputy Shelby to teach other officer how to “survive” the quick killing of an unarmed person is inconsistent with SEHIA’s purported mission to seek justice for true victims of homicide. Furthermore, Deputy Shelby’s lack of remorse and reflection after the fatal shooting of Mr. Crutcher makes her unfit to instruct other officers on how to appropriately respond to a fatal shooting. Finally, the letter observes that allowing Deputy Shelby to speak will only weaken already-strained relationships between police and communities of color that have lost loved ones at the hands of police, especially in Baton Rouge, which is still grappling with the fatal police shooting of Alton Sterling.
Deputy Shelby was acquitted of manslaughter charges for the September 16, 2016 killing of Mr. Crutcher, but in an unusual public letter issued after the trial, the jurors stated that she had options besides lethal force. In August of 2018, Deputy Shelby gave a similar talk on “surviving” the aftermath of an officer-involved-incident to officers in Tulsa, angering local residents and sparking protests.
Read the letter here.
Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF