Ohio grand jury declines to indict police officers for fatally shooting man with air rifle
John Crawford III was shot and killed by police in a Walmart on August 5
One officer will remain on administrative duty until a federal review is complete
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says U.S. Justice Department will review the case
A grand jury in Ohio has decided not to indict police officers in the August shooting death of a 22-year-old man carrying an air rifle at a Walmart store in Beavercreek, Ohio.
“The grand jury listened to all the evidence, voted on it and decided that the police officers were justified in their use of force that day,” prosecutor Mark Piepmeier said on Wednesday.
In a statement, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said the U.S. Justice Department will review the shooting of Cincinnati resident John Crawford III.
“Now that the state criminal investigation has finished, it is an appropriate time for the United States Department of Justice to look into whether any federal laws were violated during this shooting,” the statement said.
Michael Wright, attorney representing Crawford’s family, said the decision against indicting was “incomprehensible.”
“It makes absolutely no sense that an unarmed 22-year-old man would be killed doing what any American citizen does every day: Shopping at a Walmart store,” he said in a statement. “The Crawford family is extremely disappointed, disgusted and confused. They are heartbroken that justice was not done in the tragic death of their only son.”
The statement added, “The Crawford family feels they have been victimized all over again and once again request that the U.S. Department of Justice conduct an independent investigation into the tragic death of John H. Crawford, lll.”
Crawford was shot and killed by police at a Walmart in Beavercreek on August 5 while carrying an air rifle through the store. Police responded to the scene after a witness called 911 and told dispatchers that Crawford was walking around with a rifle and “waving it back and forth.”
According to police, when officers arrived, Crawford did not comply with their commands to drop his weapon.
He was shot twice, once in the elbow and once in the torso, Piepmeier said.
Crawford died shortly after being transported to a nearby hospital. His death was ruled a homicide by gunshot wound to the torso, according to the local coroner’s office.
Piepmeier, who led the team of prosecutors that presented evidence to the Greene County grand jury, called Crawford’s death “a perfect storm of circumstances.”
First, there was the fact that an unwrapped air rifle was left on top of its box inside of the store. Next, the fact that Crawford decided to pick it up and carry it with him. And the fact that the 911 caller, identified in police reports as Ronald Ritchie, noticed the weapon in Crawford’s hand and called authorities.
And finally, the fact that the gun bore such a strong resemblance to an actual automatic weapon.
“It is very hard to tell the difference,” Piepmeier said.
Prosecutors also showed surveillance video from inside the store, which had not been made public until Wednesday. In the video, Crawford can be seen picking the air rifle off a shelf and walking around the store with it before being confronted by police.
The two police officers who were involved – Sgt. David Darkow and Officer Sean Williams – were placed on paid administrative leave after the shooting, but Darkow has returned to active duty, according to Beavercreek city attorney Stephen McHugh.
Williams will be assigned to administrative desk duty until a federal review of the circumstances surrounding Crawford’s death is complete, according to a statement.
Wright said Walmart surveillance video and eyewitness accounts prove Williams “shot and killed Mr. Crawford while his back was turned and without adequate warning.”
Beavercreek City Manager Michael Cornell and Police Chief Dennis Evers have requested that the FBI review the case to determine whether there were civil rights violations, the statement said.
“The events of August 5th were tragic and we wish the outcome of that evening had been different,” the statement says.
The statement said Darkow and Williams “did what they were trained to do to protect the public.”
Piepmeier called the case one with “no bad guys.”
“Mr. Crawford did not commit a crime that day,” he said.
The nine-member grand jury, which convened on Monday, heard from 18 witnesses. An indictment on charges of murder, reckless homicide or negligent homicide would have required seven votes, Piepmeier said.
Vote counts from grand jury votes are not made public.