TULSA, Okla. — Tulsa leaders on Thursday called for a peaceful response to a jury's decision to acquit a white police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man, and said more must be done to fight racial divisions in Oklahoma's second-largest city.
The comments came after a jury on Wednesday found Tulsa Officer Betty Shelby not guilty of manslaughter. She said she shot out of fear Sept. 16 when she killed Terence Crutcher, who had his hands held above his head.
The initial reaction from the community in the hours after Wednesday night's verdict was peaceful. About 100 demonstrators gathered outside the courthouse and some briefly blocked a main street, but police kept a relatively low profile, standing about a block away.
Mayor G.T. Bynum said at a news conference Thursday that he respected the jury's decision, but also called Tulsa's racial divide the city's greatest moral issue.
"This verdict does not alter the course on which we are adamantly set," he said. "It does not change our recognition of the racial disparities that have afflicted Tulsa historically. It does not change our work to institute community policing measures that empower citizens to work side by side with police officers in making our community safer."
Crutcher's family was quickly ushered out of the courtroom sobbing and wailing after the decision.
"Let it be known that I believe in my heart that Betty Shelby got away with murder," Crutcher's father, the Rev. Joey Crutcher, said outside the courtroom.