Judge Finds Probable Cause to Charge 911 Caller in Wrongful Death of John Crawford III

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The 911 caller who incited the fatal 2014 Walmart shooting of John Crawford III may face charges under probable cause, according to a decision by an Ohio judge.

Ronald Ritchie, who was referred to in a previous Atlanta Black Star article as a 24-year-old white “ex-Marine,” called 911 dispatchers to alert police of a threatening Black man walking around the store aiming a weapon, which turned out to be a disposable toy gun. Ritchie is liable to receive a first-degree misdemeanor charge in the case.

Ritchie’s suspicion incited and “resulted in the death of not only John Crawford but another shopper by the name of Angela Williams,” Bomani Moyenda said, one of 10 people who filed affidavits March 25, according to WCPO.

Ritchie told the 911 dispatchers on Aug. 5, 2014 that he saw 22-year-old Crawford loading bullets into the supposed weapon.

“He’s, like, pointing it at people,” Ritchie told the 911 operator as he walked the aisles of a Beavercreek, Ohio, Walmart.

Police stormed the store in a matter of moments and Crawford was killed. Later, police would learn that Crawford was carrying a disposable toy gun that he had picked up inside the store. And video from the store showed him carrying the gun on his shoulder but didn’t show him aiming the gun at anyone, according to the Dayton Daily News.

During an interview with the The Guardian, Ritchie retracts 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 said the Walmart 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 that as Crawford leaned on the pellet gun like a cane, he was “shot on sight” in a “militaristic” response by police.

While Fairborn Municipal Court Judge Beth Root found there was probable cause to prosecute Ritchie for making false reports, she ruled that there was not probable cause to prosecute Ritchie for inciting violence, inducing panic, involuntary manslaughter or reckless homicide. At this time it wasn’t certain what legal steps may follow, but the judge, in her decision, wrote that the case should be referred to a prosecutor.

If charged, Ritchie would face a first-degree misdemeanor charge punishable by a maximum of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, the Daily News reports.

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