WYSO

State Releases Details In Crawford Case

Oct 3, 2014

Credit Bureau of Criminal Investigations

Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation has released details about the officer-involved shooting at a Beavercreek Walmart in August. That's after a special grand jury last week found no wrongdoing on the part of two Beavercreek police officers who shot and killed 22-year-old John Crawford III, a black man. The US Department of Justice is now reviewing the case. 

At close to 300 pages, the BCI investigation report from Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office includes testimony from police, Walmart employees, and 911 caller Ronald Ritchie, who had reported to police that a man was walking through the store waving a gun at people.

The report confirms that after responding to the call, police officer Sean Williams fired shots, unaware that John Crawford was holding a pellet gun sold in the store. Multiple accounts corroborate the police's previous assertion that they had called for Crawford to put down his weapons, although by some accounts he was given only a few seconds to respond before he was shot. Crawford was alone talking on his cell phone when he was shot. 

Following the shots fired by police, pharmacy employees called 911 and hid in a nearby bathroom before police gave them the okay to come out around an hour later. Other workers and customers were told to exit the store.

The BCI report also reveals that for at least two days prior to Aug. 5, store video shows several people picking up and looking at the same or a similar gun as the one Crawford was holding when he was shot. The report indicates that the air rifle bb-gun Crawford picked up was on a shelf in the sporting goods isle.  

When police were still questioning where the gun came from, John Crawford's girlfriend, Tasha Thomas, told them that if Crawford had carried a gun into the store, she had not seen it. She also confirmed what a later coroner's report revealed: that Crawford had marijuana in his system. Thomas told police that Crawford had smoked earlier that day. 

Tasha Thomas, John Crawford's girlfriend, after a Greene County jury decides not to indict officers involved in his killing.
Credit Jerry Kenney

The case is now in the hands of federal investigators. But Thaddeus Hoffmeister, a law professor at the University of Dayton, says the indictment of police officers in cases like this are harder at the federal level.

“You can possibly get police to change their practices, and the DOJ has done that in the past—the Department off Justice—but the challenge here is you have to show that the police officer had the specific intent to use more force than reasonably necessary under the circumstances," Hoffmeister said.  "That's a high threshold to meet.”

Hoffmeister believes the Crawford family does have a strong civil case if they choose to pursue it.  The family and its attorneys have stated they’ll wait to hear what federal investigators find.

The BCI report also includes the testimony of Sgt. David Darkow, the other responding officer, who stated to special agents that he remembers Crawford having a “shocked” look on his face when told to drop the weapon and it seemed he made a move to "get away" or "take cover."

Testimony from 911 caller Ronald Ritchie’s wife, April Ritchie, says Crawford pointed the gun at an Hispanic family near the pet aisle; she says they moved away quickly from the scene speaking in Spanish. That's when the Ritchies called 911.