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Video Prompts Questions In Tulsa Police Shooting Of An Unarmed Black Man


Two cities, two police killings of African-American men, two protests last night. In Charlotte, N.C. yesterday, police shot and killed a 40-year-old man they say was armed with a gun. As we heard elsewhere in this program, during the protest that followed there at least a dozen police were injured. Police cars were damaged and tear gas was fired to disperse a crowd.

We turn now to the other community, Tulsa, Okla., where last night, a peaceful protest drew several hundred people to police headquarters. They were demanding justice for last Friday's death of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed African-American man, father of four, who was shot and killed by a Tulsa police officer. We're joined now by the mayor of Tulsa, Okla., Dewey Bartlett. Mayor, good morning.

DEWEY BARTLETT: Good morning, David.

GREENE: You know, just - I want to talk through this video with you. Seeing this police video, it looks like Terence Crutcher - I mean, he has his hands up, appears to be cooperating before being tasered and shot. Am I missing something here?

BARTLETT: No, the video speaks for itself. I mean, it's very graphic, very difficult to watch, but it's there. The difficulty we have is that we - at least at this point, we don't have a recorded conversation between all the participants in the events, both before, during and after. We have recordings of the radio traffic, but not a direct conversation. So that will result from the interviews that have been taken, so that will - that's certainly part of the investigation as well.

GREENE: You're saying conversations, maybe among police, that might give investigators, others an idea of exactly what these police officers were thinking ahead of this death?

BARTLETT: Exactly, exactly, what orders had been given to the - Mr. Crutcher, for example, what might have led to the mindsets of the police at that time.

GREENE: Interesting thing yesterday, the police announcing that PCP, this illegal drug that can cause hallucinations, had been found in Crutcher's car. Is that somehow relevant to the investigation, do you believe?

BARTLETT: No, it isn't. And as a matter of fact, when we first had a meeting with the family, we told - our police chief told the family at that time that PCP had been found but that the police department was not going to be the instigating delivery of that information to the public. The attorneys for the family apparently asked that question in a public way of the police, and so they had to respond honestly.

But it was not our - you know, that's a very good question. The answer is that no, it's not relevant as far as this point in time certainly. So there's no reason at all for us to try to give bad information towards that individual or the family. Anything in their history is not relevant at this point.

GREENE: You - your city's been getting some praise for being very transparent about all of this, inviting a civil rights investigation immediately. Have you learned from - some lessons from other communities that have gone through this kind of thing recently?

BARTLETT: Well, that plus we've learned from our own experience. Several years ago, we had - on Good Friday before Easter, we had a very bad situation where two idiots went through a predominantly African-American neighborhood and started shooting people. We were very open at that point, and the reception we had was much better than other cities have experienced.

GREENE: Mayor, we really appreciate you talking to us this morning. Mayor Dewey Bartlett of Tulsa, Okla. Thank you.

BARTLETT: Thank you very much, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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