CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said Wednesday that he was “very troubled” by the police shooting of an unarmed black man in Tulsa, stating that he believes police officers who overreact under pressure should not be entrusted with the responsibility.
It was a sudden departure for Trump from his forceful support for police officers, amid an intense national debate over discriminatory policing. In the past, he has criticized the Black Lives Matter movement for questioning police tactics. He has also made giving power “back to the police” a central campaign promise.
“I must tell you, I watched the shooting in particular in Tulsa. And that man was hands up. That man went to the car, hands up. Put his hand on the car — to me it looked like he did everything you’re supposed to do,” Trump said during a campaign event at the New Spirit Revival Center. “And he looked like a really good man. And maybe I’m a little clouded because I saw his family talking about him after the fact.”
Trump, who said he is a “tremendous believer” in law enforcement, was careful not to condemn police departments as a whole and did not state that he believes discriminatory policing is a systemic problem. He was responding to a question by Pastor Darrell Scott.
The GOP nominee said he believes the officer involved in the Tulsa shooting made a mistake, either because she was scared or because she choked.
“This young officer, I don’t know what she was thinking. I don’t know what she was thinking. But I’m very, very troubled by that. And we have to be very careful. These things are terrible,” Trump said. “In my opinion that was a terrible situation. And we’ve seen others. And the police are aware of it, too, by the way. The police are troubled by it, too.”
“Did she get scared, was she choking? People that do that can’t be doing what they’re doing,” he added.
Officer Betty Shelby, 42, has been a police officer since 2007. Terence Crutcher, the man who was fatally shot, was unarmed.
Trump has been extremely critical of President Obama for, in his view, failing to curtail retaliatory attacks against police officers. He said Obama “doesn’t have a clue” after the president spoke about a string of fatal shootings involving law enforcement and several police killings. Obama denounced police killings at the time and urged an end to “inflammatory rhetoric” on police violence.
“President Obama just had a news conference, but he doesn’t have a clue. Our country is a divided crime scene, and it will only get worse!” Trump tweeted in July.