Middletown police chief ‘sick, tired’ of officer-involved shootings

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Middletown police chief ‘sick, tired’ of officer-involved shootings

After watching several videos of the country’s latest fatal, police-involved shooting, Middletown Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw, a 26-year veteran of the department, said he couldn’t remain silent.

So in addition to sharing his views on social media, including telling bad police officers to turn in their badges, the incident will be used as a training tool for Middletown officers.

On Tuesday morning, Muterspaw wrote on his Facebook page that he was “so sick, tired and mentally drained from seeing things like this” after watching the deadly shooting in Oklahoma.

Muterspaw wrote on his Facebook page that if police officers “can’t do the job or are scared of people different than you, then get out of the job. You are making us all look bad. STOP.”

A tweet by Muterspaw with a similar message on Twitter was re-tweeted more than 7,000 times Tuesday evening, a number that shocked him, he said.

An attorney for a white Oklahoma police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man said the man ignored officers’ commands, kept touching his pocket and was reaching through a window of his SUV when he was killed.

Police video from the incident Friday shows 40-year-old Terence Crutcher walking away from the officers and toward his SUV with his hands up then approaching the side of his vehicle, before an officer shocks him with a stun gun and he is fatally shot. Police were called to the scene to respond to a report of a stalled vehicle.

Police Chief Chuck Jordan announced Monday, before the video and audio recordings were released, that Crutcher had no weapon on him or in his SUV when he was shot. It’s not clear from the footage what led Betty Shelby, the officer who fired the fatal shot, to draw her gun or what orders officers gave Crutcher.

Muterspaw said he will use the shooting in Tulsa as a training tool for his officers. He talked with detectives Tuesday and plans to discuss the shooting with his patrol officers, too.

“It could be us tomorrow,” Muterspaw told the Journal-News. “You have to look at it. It’s not second-guessing anybody. It’s training for us. It’s a chance to learn from it. We are not robots. We have an opinion too. If it makes our department better and keeps our officers safer, if it makes the city better we should speak out about it.”

He said Middletown officers have removed 137 weapons from suspects this year without firing their guns.

Even after watching the video numerous times, from different views, Muterspaw said he has no idea what the officer was thinking and why she reacted with deadly force. Sometimes, he said, despite all the training, mistakes happen.

“We are like any job,” he said. “It’s not necessarily bad seeds or bad apples, people just aren’t prepared when something happens and they panic. You can train all day long. You can go through scenarios all day long. But you know you are not going to get hurt in those scenarios. But when it hits the fan, people sometimes panic.”

Muterspaw said the shooting may have been an accident. He said it was strange that Crutcher was shot with a stun gun, then shot. He also found it odd that there were four officers at the scene and Shelby was the only one who fired a shot. Muterspaw said he always wear his Taser and gun on different sides to avoid potential mistakes.

Since being named police chief two years ago, Muterspaw said his department has increased its community relations and outreach. He said the police department and the residents have a positive relationship, but he knows one shooting could change all of that.

When there’s “questionable” shootings like the one in Tulsa, he said, “it sets us back every time and it’s hard to get a grip on what we are trying to do.”

On Tuesday, Muterspaw said he received phone calls and text messages from local leaders and pastors. His message to them: “You are safe,” said Muterspaw, who added less than 1 percent of police officers are involved in a shooting.

This article contains previous reporting by the Associated Press.

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