Police immediately shot a Walmart shopper on sight after they encountered him leaning on one of the store’s unpurchased BB guns while on the phone, an attorney for the deceased man’s family says.
Michael Wright, a lawyer representing the family of 22-year-old John Crawford III, who was shot and killed by police inside the Beavercreek Walmart earlier this month after being spotted wielding one of the store’s Crosman MK-177 pellet guns, commented at a news conference yesterday on bits of surveillance footage shown to him and the family by the Ohio Attorney General.
Wright said that, based on what he’d been shown, it did not appear Crawford made any threatening gestures, as suggested by a 9-1-1 caller, but was instead leaning on the butt of the air rifle when police arrived.
“The tape we saw saw several shoppers walk by John, look at merchandise in the same aisle with John, including Angela Williams and her children and they were completely indifferent as to John’s presence. No shopper showed any concern about John’s presence that we were shown on tape by the attorney general,” Wright stated.
On August 5, Beavercreek police used lethal force when they responded to a call regarding a man walking around the store menacingly pointing a weapon at other shoppers.
The 9-1-1 caller stated he witnessed Crawford “walking around with a gun in the store,” and that he was “loading it right now,” and pointing it at customers and children.
He “was just waving it at children and people. Items…. I couldn’t hear anything that he was saying. I’m thinking that he is either going to rob the place or he’s there to shoot somebody else,” the concerned shopper told police.
“We have no idea what this 9-1-1 caller viewed,” Wright stated. “The video that we were shown shows John doing absolutely nothing menacing, not pointing the gun, doing none of the things that the 9-1-1 caller indicated,” asserted Wright, adding that he had not yet been able to question the caller. “You just saw [Crawford] standing talking on the phone, and the next frame he’s laying on the ground.”
“From what we’ve seen, John had no opportunity to put the gun down,” Wright said. He was “doing nothing more, nothing less than shopping”
Lee Cee Johnson, the mother of Crawford’s children, said she was speaking with him on the phone right before police shot him. She said she heard Crawford tell someone the gun was “not real,” then heard screaming.
“We was just talking. He said he was at the video games playing videos and he went over there by the toy section where the toy guns were. And the next thing I know, he said ‘It’s not real,’ and the police start shooting and they said ‘Get on the ground,’ but he was already on the ground because they had shot him,” Johnson said. “And I could hear him just crying and screaming. I feel like they shot him down like he was not even human.”
Wright said he’s still waiting to view the footage in its entirety, as he’d only been shown select parts, but said what police have released so far is extremely “one-sided” in favor of police accounts.
“Everything released is one-sided. There is nothing favorable to John Crawford. You can’t show different pieces. Show it all. Don’t trickle pieces to gain favor of the public,” said Wright.
Ohio Attorney General Mike Dewine says they haven’t released the footage because it “is not the right thing to do,” and because it might affect the opinions of jurors presiding over the case.
The Beavercreek police chief, Dennis Evers, has already weighed in defending the officers, stating, “Preliminary indications are the officers acted appropriately under the circumstances.”
“The officers gave verbal commands to the subject to drop the weapon,” Evers stated at a press conference the day after the shooting. “The subject … was shot after failing to comply with the officers’ commands. The quick response of officers was instrumental in containing this situation and minimizing the risk to customers.”
An innocent bystander also died following the confrontation. The Greene County Coroner indicated Angela Williams, 37, of Fairborn, was “apparently running from a dangerous situation inside the Walmart store when she collapsed. She was taken to Soin Medical Center where she died at 9:14 p.m.” In a sad twist, the mother of two was due to be wed that weekend.
Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation predicted it could be months before the investigation wraps up, a sluggish pace Crawford’s father, John Crawford II, perceives as “stall tactics.”
The state has handed the case over to a special prosecutor, and a grand jury will convene on September 22 to ultimately decide what repercussive actions to take, if any.
One of the officers involved in the altercation, David Darkow, is back on duty, while officer Sean Williams remains on paid administrative leave, according to the Huffington Post.