Crutcher, 40, was shot to death by Shelby on September 16, after his car broke down in the middle of a roadway and he attempted to seek assistance from police.
The criminal complaint alleges that Shelby’s "fear resulted in her unreasonable actions which led her to shooting" Crutcher "unlawfully and unnecessarily."
Shelby shot Crutcher as he attempted to reach inside his vehicle, after allegedly not complying with her commands. His family has argued that there was blood splattered on the window, indicating that it was closed at the time that he was shot.
Another attorney for Shelby, Scott Wood, has asserted that Shelby was suffering from “auditory exclusion” at the time of the shooting. Auditory exclusion occurs when a person is hyper-focused in a high-stress situation and cannot hear what is happening around them.
Shelby claims that Crutcher refused to comply with her orders, and that she already had her firearm drawn when another officer arrived and used a stun gun on him. Shelby told investigators that she did not know the officer was there until after she fatally shot Crutcher.
“She didn’t hear the gunshot, didn’t hear the sirens coming up behind her just prior to the shot,” Wood told the Star Advertiser. “And it’s not only a common phenomenon described in literature, but it’s the No. 1 perceptual distortion by people I have represented who have been involved in shootings — diminished sound or complete auditory exclusion.”
Wood noted that Shelby’s legal defense will not depend on her awareness of what was happening around her, but he believes that it is important for jurors to know what she experienced at the time of the shooting.
“It’s just one of the many facts that have happened, and I don’t think our defense turns on whether or not she knew they were there,” Wood said.
The auditory exclusion phenomena is commonly claimed by officers involved in shootings. David Klinger, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and a former Los Angeles police officer who himself once shot a suspect, interviewed over 80 police officers who shot civilians. Klinger found that 82 percent reported diminished sound perception at the time.
“Other researchers have documented the phenomenon of muted sound or full auditory exclusion where you don’t hear anything in a variety of circumstances outside of policing,” Klinger told the Star Advertiser.
Shelby, if convicted, faces from four years to life in prison. She is currently free, awaiting trial, on $50,000 bond.