Shooting of John Crawford III
A surveillance screenshot of Crawford shot by the police
|Date||August 5, 2014|
|Location||Beavercreek, Ohio, U.S.|
The shooting of John Crawford III occurred on August 5, 2014. Crawford was a 22-year-old African-American man shot and killed by Beavercreek police officer Sean Williams, in a Walmart store in Beavercreek, Ohio, near Dayton, while holding a BB gun.
John Crawford III was born on July 29, 1992.
Crawford picked up an un-packaged BB/pellet air rifle inside the store's sporting goods section and continued shopping in the store. Another customer, Ronald Ritchie, called 911. According to Ritchie at the time, Crawford was pointing the gun at people and at children walking by, and messing with the gun. Security camera footage showed that Crawford was talking on his cellphone and holding the BB gun as he shopped, but at no point did he aim the B.B. gun at anyone. After the security camera footage was released, Ritchie recanted his statement that led to the fatal shooting and stated, "At no point did he shoulder the rifle and point it at somebody", while maintaining that Crawford was "waving it around". Two officers of the Beavercreek Police arrived at the Walmart shortly after their dispatcher informed them of a "subject with a gun" in the pet supplies area of the store. Sean Williams, one of the two police officers that arrived, shot Crawford in the arm and chest. He was later pronounced dead at Dayton's Miami Valley Hospital.
A second person, Angela Williams, died after suffering a heart attack while fleeing from the shooting. Her death was ruled a homicide (which legally means only that the death was as a direct result of the actions of another and does not imply guilt or responsibility on anyone's part).
According to initial accounts from the officers, Crawford did not respond to verbal commands to drop the BB gun and lie on the ground, and eventually began to move as if trying to escape. Believing the BB gun was a real firearm, one of the officers fired two shots into Crawford's torso and arm. He died of his injuries shortly afterwards.
The shooting was captured by the store's security video camera. Crawford was talking on his cell phone while holding the BB/Pellet air rifle when he was shot to death by Williams. According to Crawford's mother, the video shows the officers fired immediately without giving any verbal commands and without giving Crawford any time to drop the BB gun even if he had heard them.
The Guardian revealed in December that immediately after the shooting, police aggressively questioned Crawford's girlfriend, Tasha Thomas, threatening her with jail time. The interrogation caused her to sob uncontrollably, with hostile questions suggesting she was drunk or on drugs when she stated that Crawford did not enter the store with a gun. She was not yet aware of Crawford's death at the time of the interrogation. Thomas died in a car crash months later.
Following the shooting, a grand jury decided not to indict any of the officers involved on charges of either murder, reckless homicide, or negligent homicide. The Justice Department conducted its own investigation. Sean Williams, the officer who shot Crawford, was removed from normal duties until the DoJ investigation was complete. The Justice Department declined to issue charges against the officer.
Crawford's mother believes that the surveillance tape shows the police lied in their account of events, and has spoken out against the killing at a "Justice for All" march. The family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Walmart and the Beavercreek police department.
The incident received local and international coverage, in part due to the time of its occurrence; the then-recent police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the subsequent unrest there had attracted public attention, as did the death of Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York, and the shooting of Tamir Rice in Cleveland.
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