Lamenting the police killing of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa

Another unarmed African American man killed

September 20, 2016

Facebook picture of Terence Crutcher

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I bear pain in my soul,
and have sorrow in my heart all day long?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Psalm 13:1–2 (NRSV)

Another video has emerged on a police dash camera showing Tulsa, Oklahoma, police shooting an unarmed forty-year-old African American male. The shooter was a white female. Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan admitted that there was no gun found on Terence Crutcher’s person or in his truck when Tulsa Police killed him on September 16th. Once again, another African American family mourns the loss of a loved one at the hands of police. The sounds of anger and lament are heard throughout our nation in various African American communities and others as this theme of death at the hands of those called to protect and serve continues in our country. Like the Psalmist these communities victimized by the loss of loved ones are crying out, “How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long?”’ (Ps. 13:2).

The church must become agents of change in this militarized culture of policing. Maybe, it is time to advocate for citizens’ review boards in local communities. It appears that sensitivity training is not enough. In cities where citizens’ review boards are formed, common people have a role in assuring accountability in various areas of the police department, including determining the proper use of force in incidents involving police and other citizens. I am not suggesting that all police are bad. However, there is enough bad policing to create credibility questions for those who are good at their jobs.

I am weary of writing these statements related to police killings of unarmed, nonviolent people of color. We must make a commitment to removing the vestiges of racial profiling, racism, and demonization. It is imperative that we engage this issue of police shootings of innocent men, women, and children as a church while calling people to restore true communal living. I would hope that in the comments area below, we would refrain from attacking the message or responding with sarcasm. My request is that you share comments that can lead to remedies in our local communities. Who knows … the life you save may be your own. Meanwhile, let us pray for the family of Terence Crutcher and all of the other victims who mourn the loss of loved ones due to police shootings.

툴사에서 경찰에게 사살된 테렌스 크럿쳐를 애도하며

Lamentamos el asesinato de Terence Crutcher a manos de la policía en Tulsa 

  1. what about all of the unarmed men/women of ALL races? what about the murders of law enforcement. why in this society today is emphasis being placed on African Americans only? last time I checked people of all races and genders are being murdered or oppressed at times. bias articles like these are the reason racial division will continue to dominate the news

    by dean ambrose

    October 4, 2016

  2. I echo Vicky Wakins in that I am proud to be a Presbyterian. My wish is that we begin to “crash” into each other. Meaning not being afraid to talk about our differences, and ask questions when we don't know something about another culture instead of assuming our ideations to be true. There is so much we of different cultures do not know about each other because we are afraid to talk, to offend and to come out of our own mindsets and frankly: be wrong. In being wrong we can begin to learn. I do not feel all Police are bad and that they are racists. I would have to believe they went through the academy and diligent training in hopes of one day being able to shoot and kill an African American. My heart will not believe it. I am going to continue to pray and not miss an opportunity to cross racial divides every chance I get. I am dedicated to fighting injustice and loving my neighbor. That is what I can do.

    by Zonnetta M. Thomas

    September 30, 2016

  3. I am saddened by this public statement of selective outrage. Six weeks ago (Aug. 12th), again in Tulsa, 37 year old Khalid Jabara, an Arab-American was gunned down on his front porch by a racist neighbor who simply wanted to commit mayhem against a "dirty A-rab Mooslim." Jabara was an active, contributing member of American society, and was an Orthodox Christian. What a senseless loss of life. I don't remember J. Herbert Nelson, or any other PCUSA official, expressing lament concerning this loss of life, nor over this form of racism (apparently not the politically correct version). Selective outrage over killings of African-American males by police officers mixed together with utter silence concerning the unjust killings of others seems to me to reinforce the conviction that the PCUSA leadership is driven by a political agenda rather than committed impartially to God's justice for all. Instead of targeting a "militarized culture of policing" (for which there is little objective evidence), the Stated Clerk would do better to emphasize the true mission of the Church, which is to lead people to the Christ whose life transforms sinners of every stripe into redeemed humans reflecting a penchant for love, peace, justice and mercy. Were the Church to carry out her commission with zeal, this society would be positively impacted far more profoundly than by crusading for citizen review boards.

    by Mateen Elass

    September 29, 2016

  4. @Michael Spires: Outrage is not so much tied to the number of African American men killed by police, but more so to the number of UNARMED African Americans killed by police, something that happens at a rate 6 to 7 times that of white Americans. And especially outrage about the number of armed or unarmed African American men killed by police while either not committing a crime and going about normal daily life, or stopped by police for some very minor or petty violation or crime.

    by david carothers

    September 23, 2016

  5. I am pleased to see leadership of PCUSA lamenting . Our church has responded " praise be to God" and thank you Dr. Nelson.

    by Deborah A. Fair

    September 23, 2016

  6. Responding to Delores. There have been ~850 police killings this year. About 24% of them were African American. More than 24% of the crime in this country is committed by African Americans and more that 24% of the police encounters happen with African Americans. There is not a police racism problem in the US. There may be racist police as there is still racims here, but police shootings of African Americans is not an epidemic. If all 850 killings were publicized with the ferver or the ones involving African Americans, people would realize that this is not a racial issue. We all need the Grace of God and police of all races and people in encounters with police of all races are impacted. I think we as a society and certainly our denomination have decided to insert race into every situation where race could possibly be an issue wether or not it is and that is unfortunate.

    by Michael Spires

    September 23, 2016

  7. Thank you for your ministry, Dr. Nelson.

    by Dave Wallace, Prexy NBPC

    September 22, 2016

  8. What an excellent idea - and we have already implemented it! We have civilian review boards in place in every community in the United States. They are called juries. These common people make judgments on issues brought before them. Sometimes we do not like these judgments. However, the verdict of history is that the judgments of these civilian review boards is more accurate than the judgment of those who would snap off an angry e-mail or statement after reviewing a small portion of the evidence. If we could educate the leadership of our denomination we might have a voice that would speak with the strength and clarity needed on this crucial issue.

    by John McMillan

    September 22, 2016

  9. The idea of review boards made up of a mixture of folks from the communities that are most victimized by these police shootings seems worthy of stronger advocacy and support by the churches. Young and elderly street people are required for such boards and both police and gang members need to be members if we want to confront the reality and discern a solution for gun violence in our homes and neighborhoods. A carefully chosen and empowered local review board can invest insider knowledge and legal authority into the mystery of the growing enmity and strife breaking out today between police and those they are sworn to protect. It' s a full time job and needs local support, prestige, expertise, power and generous funding to do what needs to be done to change the trigger-happy culture of the city.

    by Gayraud S. Wilmore

    September 21, 2016

  10. My sister in law is a teaching elder with a Master of Divinity. She is gunning for a position as a police chaplain. When I try to speak with her about her remarks, where said remarks would seem to indicate that she sincerely believes that only blue lives matter, she becomes hostile and defensive. This has created an irreparable rift in our family. We no longer speak. Her qualifications mean nothing if she does not respect life. All lives really do matter.

    by Bruce

    September 21, 2016

  11. I would like to respond to Sandra. Sometimes black men are shot even when they are in full compliance with the law. I believe that some officers view them immediately as criminals, not suspects. I believe that the officers could find another way to restrain people without having to shoot to kill. They should not be judge, jury and executioner. I believe that in this country black people have been enslaved, dehumanized, disenfranchised, jim crowed, uneducated,red-lined, denied housing, denied voting rights,victimized and criminalized. Perhaps if all of these horrific things had not been done to them, we would not have to be reminded that their lives matter. Perhaps if we had not spent years telling them that they were less than human, that they were meant to serve, that they were inferior in every way, we would not have to be reminded that their lives matter. Perhaps if these things happened to me as a white person I would be violently protesting, breaking things, yelling things to get the attention of a nation who has turned its back on me. Not as an excuse, but as a cry from the depths of my soul that someone would finally hear and pay attention.

    by Delores Paulk

    September 21, 2016

  12. All lives matter. Maybe we need to focus on respect for the law and when they say put your hands up, etc. - well, that's what you do. That's what I would do. Instead, it's an excuse to riot, destroy property and harm innocent people! Ya'll need to get off this wagon and look at the REAL problem!

    by Sandra allen

    September 21, 2016

  13. Thank-you. This is yet another example of why I remain in the PCUSA.

    by Starr Luteri-Hicks

    September 21, 2016

  14. I appreciate the love and concern exhibited in this statement. I am proud to be a Presbyterian ,and as a duly elected Ruling Elder I only wish everyone felt a similar pride when seeing our denomination speak out against injustice in any form. The particularity of this statement is indicative of a new more responsive and sensitive direction the national leadership of the church has taken since the conclusion of GA222. They recognize that indeed all lives matter, as Christians we profess that belief in affirming that Christ's suffering was for the Jew as well as the Gentile. But we also recognize that Jesus took special time to be amongst the Samaritans, the Lepers, and the tax collectors--the marginalized in order to accomplish his divine purpose. a call for Black Lives Matters affirms that all lives matters but calls out the fact that when we only say all lives matters it centers the conversations around white life and often excludes brown, black, immigrant, and "other" bodies. We stand with Terrence Crutcher as we stand with Dallas PD (see previous public statements). The innocents at Ft. Hood ought not be lifted up or implied as "more" innocent than Crutcher, Sterling, of Castile. Establishing "innocence" hierarchies automatically forsakes the innocence of black and brown bodies. What makes us uncomfortable about acknowledging the pain felt at the death of the "other"?

    by Joshua Narcisse

    September 21, 2016

  15. Even with the lengthy background info forwarded to the police about Terence Crutcher (which may have heightened the officers' alertness to any unusual move) A tazer would have been the appropriate response. So that further investigation might lead to justice being served with out the loss of life.

    by Karen

    September 21, 2016

  16. I'm very upset that we're not concerned with all lives matter. Possible if we as a church community spend more time assisting in educating all as to how to obey the rules and respect athourity we might not be in the current situations. I'm a proud Presbyterian and Elder however I'm very disappointed that you feel we should not be morning all losses of life including those police officers that are murdered. Our position should be to help United not divide.

    by Esther Roman

    September 20, 2016

  17. This makes me proud to be a Presbyterian!

    by VIcky Wakins

    September 20, 2016

  18. Refresh my old memory: has PC(USA) publically lamented the all deaths involving police? How 'bout the killing of police ... shooting Marine recruiters? Innocent people at Ft. Hood? Innocents @ San Bernadino? If not, then what crteriia do you use to descern what deaths are important enough to warrant mourning?

    by David Boyd

    September 20, 2016

  19. My approach to these types of incidents is to wait for the results of the investigation first, before I comment. That way, I won't prejudice the investigation, further polarize the situation or damage a reputation that may not deserve it. No one is breathlessly waiting for a church officer's personal statement on every news story headline. We are trying to speak life into every situation, though, and that means listening first.

    by Joe Duffus

    September 20, 2016

  20. I so agree with this post.

    by Rev William Veith

    September 20, 2016

  21. Thank you! I am grateful for your leadership.

    by Bill Lindeman

    September 20, 2016

  22. Superior WI and Duluth MN are creating a Diversity Partnership to seek solutions. The partnership includes a wide diversity of people including law enforcement, justice, university, religious community, minority communities and others. A hopeful start.

    by Joel Huenemann

    September 20, 2016

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