Surveillance video shows an Ohio man talking on a cell phone, leaning on a toy gun, and facing away from officers moments before police shot and killed him in a Walmart store, according to an attorney for the man’s family.
John Crawford III died Aug. 5 after police were called to Walmart in Beavercreek, near Dayton, by another shopper who reported a man carrying what appeared to be an AR-15 rifle.
The 22-year-old Crawford was instead carrying an unpackaged MK-177 (.177 caliber) BB/pellet rifle he picked up in the store’s toy department.
Police claim Crawford ignored their commands to drop the weapon, and the former Marine who called in the report and witnessed the shooting said Crawford “looked like he was going to go violently.”
But attorney Michael Wright said surveillance video from the incident, which Ohio’s attorney general allowed him to watch with Crawford’s family, contradicted those accounts.
“John was doing nothing wrong in Walmart, nothing more, nothing less than shopping,” Wright said.
The attorney said surveillance video showed Crawford facing away from officers, talking on the phone, and leaning on the pellet gun like a cane when he was “shot on sight” in a “militaristic” response by police.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced Tuesday handed the case over to a special prosecutor to present to a grand jury Sept. 22.
Mark Piepmeier, an assistant Hamilton County, Ohio, prosecutor, has handled more than 100 officer-involved shooting cases in his career.
He oversaw the grand jury investigation of Stephen Roach, who was indicted but later acquitted of a negligent homicide charge in the fatal 2001 shooting of 19-year-old Timothy Thomas that sparked race riots in Cincinnati.
DeWine said Tuesday he was glad he had allowed Crawford’s family to view the surveillance video, but he did not plan to publicly release the video to avoid tainting the jury pool.
“I thought the family had the right to view it,” DeWine said. “The mom did not want to view it; I understand it. The dad did view it, (but) to put the video out on TV is not the right thing to do.”
Wright said the family objected to the piecemeal release of evidence, such as dispatch audio and video on the day of the shooting, was biased toward the police.
“Everything released is one-sided,” Wright said. “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.”
He said the video suggests Crawford probably did not see or hear officers as they arrived.
Crawford was speaking by cell phone to his girlfriend, who was with his parents, when he was shot.
“He said he was at the video games playing videos, and he went over there by the toy section where the toy guns were,” said LeeCee Johnson, the mother of his two children. “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 put the phone on speaker mode, and she and Crawford’s parents heard him die.
“I could hear him just crying and screaming,” Johnson said. “I feel like they shot him down like he was not even human.”
A 37-year-old woman at the store suffered an unspecified medical emergency after the shooting and died a short time later.
Sgt. David Darkow, one of the officers involved in the shooting, has already been allowed to resume his duties.
The other officer, Sean Williams, remains on administrative leave.
Wright called on DeWine to turn over the case to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Watch this video report posted online by WDTN-TV: