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September, 25, 2016

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Police officer charged for shooting black man

TULSA, Oklahoma -- Less than a week after an unarmed black man was shot dead by a white police officer on a Tulsa street, prosecutors charged the officer with first-degree manslaughter, a decision that may prevent unrest in a city with a long history of tense race relations.

Tulsa officer Betty Shelby "reacted unreasonably" when she fatally shot 40-year-old Terence Crutcher on Sept. 16, prosecutors wrote in an affidavit filed with the charge on Thursday. Police also acted quickly to provide videos of the shooting to black community leaders and members of Crutcher's family and then released them to the public.

Shelby was booked in the Tulsa County jail at 1:11 a.m. Friday and was released at 1:31 a.m. after posting US$50,000 bond, according to jail records.

The swift action in Tulsa stood in contrast to Charlotte, North Carolina, where police refused under mounting pressure Thursday to publicly release video of the shooting of another black man this week and the National Guard was called in after two nights of violent protests. Demonstrations in Tulsa since Crutcher's death have been consistently peaceful.

Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett praised the police department for quickly providing evidence to District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler's office.

"These are important steps to ensure that justice and accountability prevails," Bartlett said in a statement. "We will continue to be transparent to ensure that justice and accountability prevails."

Phil Turner, a Chicago-based defense attorney and former federal prosecutor, said the motivation of prosecutors in Tulsa may have been partly to allay outrage and avoid the kind of violence Charlotte has seen.

"But I don't think the charge was only to give the crowd some blood. ... No. I think (prosecutors) must have thought charges were warranted," he said.

If convicted, Shelby faces between four years and life in prison. Crutcher's twin sister, Tiffany Crutcher, said her family is pleased with the charge, but she and her attorneys want to ensure a vigorous prosecution that leads to a conviction.

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This undated file photo provided by the Tulsa Oklahoma Police Department shows officer Betty Shelby. Police say Tulsa officer Shelby fired the fatal shot that killed 40 year-old ...

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