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Cop charged over fatal shooting of unarmed black man

Officer Betty Shelby
Officer Betty Shelby

A white police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man on a city street has been charged with first-degree manslaughter, prosecutors in Tulsa, Oklahoma, said.

Tulsa County district attorney Steve Kunzweiler filed the charges on Thursday against officer Betty Shelby, who shot and killed 40-year-old Terence Crutcher on September 16.

Dashcam and aerial footage of the shooting and its aftermath showed Mr Crutcher walking away from Shelby with his arms in the air.

The footage does not offer a clear view of when Shelby fired the single shot that killed Mr Crutcher. Her attorney has said Crutcher was not following police commands and that Shelby opened fire when the man began to reach into his vehicle window.

But Mr Crutcher's family immediately discounted that claim, saying the father of four posed no threat to the officers, and police said Mr Crutcher did not have gun on him or in his vehicle.

Shelby, who joined the Tulsa Police Department in December 2011, was en route to a domestic violence call when she encountered Mr Crutcher's vehicle abandoned on a city street, straddling the centre line.

Shelby did not activate her patrol car's dashboard camera, so no footage exists of what first happened between the two before other officers arrived.

The police footage shows Mr Crutcher approaching the driver's side of the vehicle, then more officers walk up and Mr Crutcher appears to lower his hands and place them on the vehicle. A man inside a police helicopter overhead says: "That looks like a bad dude, too. Probably on something."

The officers surround Mr Crutcher and he suddenly drops to the ground. A voice heard on police radio says: "Shots fired!"

The officers back away and Mr Crutcher is left unattended on the street for about two minutes before an officer puts on medical gloves and begins to attend to him.

Earlier this year a former volunteer deputy with the Tulsa County sheriff's office was sentenced to four years in prison after he was convicted of second-degree manslaughter over the shooting death of Eric Harris.