The estate of Terence Crutcher has filed a new wrongful death lawsuit in Tulsa County District Court against the city of Tulsa related to his 2016 shooting death by then-Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby.
Family attorneys said in a news conference Wednesday that Crutcher’s parents, according to state law, are not legally entitled to make a damage claim in the previously filed federal case against Shelby, the city of Tulsa and Chief Chuck Jordan that alleges civil rights violations occurred at the time of Crutcher’s death in September 2016.
However, Oklahoma’s civil procedure statute on wrongful death claims indicates a family can file suit to recover damages for grief and loss of companionship for the children and parents of a decedent.
Crutcher’s estate, of which Tulsa attorney Mike Manning now serves as administrator, filed an initial petition in March asking for at least $10,000 in damages and submitted an amended petition on Wednesday claiming Crutcher, 40, died as a result of Shelby’s on-duty negligence.
The amended filing contends Shelby was “completely unqualified to be a patrol officer on the streets of Tulsa with police powers” when she shot Crutcher outside his parked SUV near the intersection of 36th Street North and Lewis Avenue.
“We had hoped that we would get this thing settled long before now,” Joey Crutcher, Terence Crutcher’s father, said during the news conference at attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons’ downtown Tulsa law office.
“I sat in my living room with, at that time, (Mayor-elect G.T.) Bynum, and he stated that he would definitely make sure that all that needed to be done to make sure that we got justice for our son pertaining to everything, losses and all that, would take place.
“We are so frustrated that it has taken 18 months and we still haven’t gotten any resolution whatsoever.”
The new petition states that the estate filed a notice of tort claim with the city in June but did not receive a response by the statutory period of 90 days. A city of Tulsa Legal Department employee confirmed Wednesday afternoon that there was no written response to the tort claim notice.
“I want the family to know that the Crutcher family, Mrs. Crutcher, is so tired,” Leanna Crutcher said during the news conference. She added, when referencing the shooting: “I will never get over that, so don’t tell me to get over it.”
“Terence was murdered. Shot down like a dog because of someone’s misinterpreting. By a trained person that was there to protect. She was (acquitted), but that still doesn’t make it right,” she said.
Bynum’s office, when asked for comment, said in a statement that the Crutchers are good people who have endured a terrible tragedy and that since Terence’s death, the city has taken steps to combat racial inequality.
“Our state has a judicial system in place to render justice, and I respect the need for that process to take its course,” Bynum said.
“We continue to make progress on the findings of the Tulsa Commission on Community Policing, which anyone is free to track on the city website. Today, we released one of the most important reports in the history of our city regarding inequalities that exist in Tulsa.
“This summer, we will release a comprehensive strategy to address issues of racial disparity that will be the work product of hundreds of Tulsans and resources from around the world.”