[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] opened an investigation on Tuesday into the fatal police shooting of Terence Crutcher. Crutcher, an unarmed black man, was shot last week [WSJ report] by a Tulsa, Oklahoma, police officer responding to a 911 call of a vehicle blocking a road. The Tulsa police department is investigating the shooting, but US Attorney Danny Williams [official profile] announced [KJRH report] to the press that the DOJ’s investigation will focus specifically on whether a civil rights violation occurred. A video [AP report] of the circumstances surrounding the shooting was released earlier this week, but the actual moment of the shots being fired was blocked from view. The last images of Crutcher before the shooting showed him walking to his car with his hands up and then placing his hands on the top of the vehicle.
The situation has occurred amid a national conversation about police use of force, particularly against black citizens, and subsequent retaliation. In a press conference held in July in Washington, DC, Attorney General Loretta Lynch gave her response to the shooting of police in Dallas during a peaceful protest. Lynch stated [JURIST report] that the DOJ, including the FBI, ATF, and US Marshals Service and US Attorneys Office were conducting an investigation into the Dallas shooting. In May Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed into law an amended hate crimes bill [JURIST report], referred to as the “Blue Lives Matter” law, including police, EMS personnel and firefighters in the category of those protected. The bill has drawn the contempt of some civil rights groups, including the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Earlier this year the DOJ launched an investigation [JURIST report] of the San Francisco Police Department following the shooting of an unarmed African American. In December an Ohio grand jury decided not to indict [JURIST report] two officers involved in a 2014 shooting resulting in the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. Earlier that month the DOJ announced that it would be opening a full investigation [JURIST report] into the Chicago Police Department following the 2014 police shooting death of a black teenager.