While the nation’s outrage has exploded over the Aug. 9 shooting death in Ferguson, Missouri, of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, the attorney for the family of John Crawford III, who was shot by police at an Ohio Wal-Mart earlier this month, said the 22-year-old father of two can be seen on surveillance video with his back to officers, leaning on a toy gun and talking on a cellphone when police shot him.
Police had been summoned Aug. 5 to the Wal-Mart in Beavercreek, near Dayton, by a former Marine who reported that a man was carrying what appeared to be an AR-15 rifle. What Crawford was actually carrying was an unpackaged MK-177 (.177 caliber) BB/pellet rifle he had just bought in the store’s toy department.
Though police had claimed that 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”— Crawford family attorney Michael Wright said after he viewed the footage with Crawford’s family it’s clear the police account wasn’t accurate.
“John was doing nothing wrong in Wal-Mart, nothing more, nothing less than shopping,” Wright said, according to rawstory.com.
Wright said Crawford was, in fact, facing away from the officers and probably didn’t hear them because he was talking on the phone with his girlfriend, who was with his parents at the time.
The attorney said as Crawford leaned on the pellet gun like a cane, he was “shot on sight” in a “militaristic” response by police.
“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 his girlfriend 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.”
She said she and his parents heard him die because she put the phone on speaker mode.
“I could hear him just crying and screaming,” Johnson said. “I feel like they shot him down like he was not even human.”
Sgt. David Darkow, one of the officers involved in the shooting, reportedly has already been allowed to resume his duties while the other officer, Sean Williams, remains on administrative leave.
On Tuesday, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced that the case would be handed over to a special prosecutor, who would present to a grand jury on Sept. 22.
DeWine said he had allowed Crawford’s family to view the surveillance video, but he would not release it publicly 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.”