Two weeks before he shot a black man carrying a toy rifle at a Walmart, an Ohio police officer participated in an emotionally manipulative “pep talk” encouraging swift and aggressive action against suspected gunmen.
A grand jury declined to charge Officer Sean Williams earlier this week in the fatal shooting of 22-year-old John Crawford III at a Walmart in suburban Dayton.
Williams shot Crawford twice about one second after spotting him at the end of an aisle, according to surveillance video released after the grand jury decision was announced.
Williams and Sgt. David Darkow responded to a 911 call that indicated Crawford was pointing the gun at other customers, including children, in a threatening manner.
Video evidence showed Crawford carrying the toy gun casually around the store as he spoke on his cell phone, and other customers walked past him without showing any apparent alarm.
Special prosecutor Mark Piepmeier, who presented the case to the grand jury, agreed that Crawford had done nothing wrong before the officer shot and killed him, but he said the police responded in a manner that was consistent with their training.
“These guys did what they were told to do,” Piepmeier said.
In fact, Piepmeier said, the officers had undergone a “pep talk” about confronting active shooters just two weeks prior to the Aug. 5 incident.
The Guardian reported details of this July 23-24 training exercise, which encouraged officers to quickly take action against active shooters to prevent their own loved ones from becoming victims of a mass shooting.
“If not you, then who?” read one slide, which showed the famous photograph of children being led out of Sandy Hook Elementary School, with a caption reminder that 20 children and five adults were killed in the December 2012 massacre.
The special prosecutor released 11 slides from the presentation, which was also shown to Greene County grand jurors.
Piepmeier said at a news conference afterward that the slides may have factored into the decision not to indict Williams on charges of murder, reckless homicide, or negligent homicide.
“A question I have, and I think a jury would have, is how are the officers trained to deal with a situation like that,” Piepmeier said.
The officers were told they must not have the “mindset” that “it’s a bad day to be a cop” when confronting an active shooter.
Instead, The Guardian reported, the officers “should be saying ‘This is the day I took my oath, trained and prepared for my entire career.’”
The presentation was prepared by the Ohio police officer training association and based on FBI protocol, the newspaper reported.
Officers were reminded that “the suspect wants a body count,” so they should immediately engage armed suspects with “speed, surprise and aggressiveness.”
The officers were encouraged to imagine “the person I love the most” was inside the building where an “active threat” was under way.
Piepmeier said police were trained to secure and evacuate the scene of a potential shooting and wait for SWAT officers prior to 1999, but that tactic was revised after the Columbine High School massacre that same year.
Watch surveillance video from the incident posted online by Greene County Dailies: