John Crawford III was killed by Ohio police on Aug. 5 because they apparently thought the toy gun he had just purchased from the Wal-Mart in Beavercreek was real, but now the white man who called 911 to report Crawford has admitted he lied to police.
On the call, 24-year-old Ronald Ritchie, who was originally described as an “ex-Marine,” described a black man walking around the store with the weapon. “He’s, like, pointing it at people,” Ritchie told the 911 operator. He also said he saw Crawford loading bullets into the supposed weapon.
But in an interview with The Guardian, Ritchie is retracting his story, saying, “at no point did he shoulder the rifle and point it at somebody.” Though Ritchie stood by his statement that Crawford was “waving (the gun) around,” attorney Michael Wright says the Wal-Mart surveillance video of the incident refutes that claim.
Wright, who is representing Crawford’s family who was allowed to watch the surveillance video, said Crawford was 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.”
Wright said it was “very improper” that police also let Ritchie watch the surveillance video because he said witness stories must be based solely on their personal recollections of an incident. The video has not been made public because Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said it would be too inflammatory.
Wright said while no other customers appeared to pay much notice to Crawford and the BB gun, Ritchie said he and his wife felt threatened by Crawford, prompting him to call 911 with his exaggerated story. Ritchie also apparently lied about his Marine status. Apparently, he was expelled from the Marine Corps after just seven weeks because his enlistment was determined to be “fraudulent,” though he claims it was the result of bad paperwork.
In the Guardian interview, Ritchie defended his 911 call by saying, “Even still, it’s a gun in Wal-Mart, in a public place, inducing panic.” Ironically, Ohio has an “open carry” law allowing people to carry a rifle in public.
During the chaos created by the police shooting of Crawford, a 37-year-old woman also died from heart failure.