While the police shooting of an unarmed Black teen in Ferguson, Mo., continues to get considerable attention, another shooting of a Black man by White police officers, near Dayton, Ohio, has been met with a more measured response.
Beavercreek, Ohio, is a mostly White, moderately affluent city of about 40,000. On Aug. 5, 22-year-old John Crawford III of nearby Fairfield, was shopping at a Wal-Mart there. While inside the store, and on the phone with the mother of his two young children, Crawford stopped in a toy isle, and picked up a Crossman MK-177 air rifle BB gun — an item Wal-Mart sells. Crawford held on to the BB gun while walking and talking on the phone. He was unaware that another customer inside the store had called 911. The first two officers on the scene say they gave Crawford two chances to drop the gun and then fired their weapons when he did not comply.
Crawford was hit in the torso and died of his injuries a short time later. Crawford wasn't the only casualty. Shots fired by police created panic and 37-year-old Angela Williams collapsed in the store and later died.
Beavercreek Police Chief Dennis Evers thought his officers involved reacted appropriately. "The quick response from officers was instrumental in containing this situation and minimizing the risk to customers," Ever said. But Chief Evers quickly turned over the investigation to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine's office. The Crawford family demanded to see Wal-Mart's in-store surveillance videos, but DeWine's office refused, saying that would compromise the investigation. DeWine's office says it has collected significant evidence and spoken with at least 50 witnesses.
Last month the attorney general showed a portion of the video to John Crawford's family. "Like all of us, Mr. Crawford's parents have questions about how this tragic event unfolded, and I felt it was only right that they be included as early as possible in this investigation," DeWine said. Crawford Family attorney, Michael Wright also watched that video. "This was the unjust killing of John Crawford," Wright said. "There's absolutely no indication that the police gave Mr. Crawford any kind of signal. And let me make the caveat, in the event that they did give a signal to Mr. Crawford, he was not aware, because the video does not show him turning towards the officers or even acknowledging their presence.