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Family calls for federal handling of contested Ohio shooting

ShootingsLaw Enforcement
Family calls upon federal prosecutors after their son was shot in an Ohio Walmart while holding an air rifle
Surveillance video that shows a contested Ohio shooting has not been released to the public

Family and supporters of a 22-year-old African American man shot and killed by police in an Ohio Walmart continued to push for answers more than two weeks after the incident.

John Crawford III was shot by police Aug. 5 after police in the Dayton suburb of Beavercreek responded to a customer’s 911 call saying a man was brandishing a weapon. Crawford was, in fact, holding an air rifle sold in Walmart stores, according to police.

Police say that Crawford did not put down the gun when requested by officers, who opened fire.

In response to the incident, Ohio Atty. Gen. Mike DeWine appointed a special prosecutor who will present evidence to a grand jury in mid-September to determine if charges should be filed against the officers.

Beavercreek police have released video and audio records from police dashboard cameras and dispatchers. The recordings do not depict the shooting but capture the police response from outside the store.  

Crawford’s relatives say they remain frustrated by what they see as a slow state response and the refusal of officials to publicly release store surveillance video. The family believes the surveillance video shows that Crawford made no threatening moves toward police, according to attorney Michael Wright, who represents the family.

On Saturday, protesters gathered outside the store to call on authorities to release the video.

“There has been so much negativity and so much misinformation related to their son, that they want to show their son did nothing wrong,” Wright said Saturday.

Wright told the Los Angeles Times that Crawford was facing away from the officers when he was shot, and that he never pointed the weapon in their direction or made any threatening moves.

Wright said he has seen the video and that it exonerates Crawford.

“We saw a young man in a Walmart doing absolutely nothing wrong and getting shot by police,” Wright said. “They could release the video and let the public see and make it clear that Mr. Crawford was not responsible for his own death.”

Crawford’s family has called on the U.S. Department of Justice to take over the investigation from DeWine, who Wright says has conflicts of interests in the case because of his ties to Greene County, where he began his career as a prosecutor and where the shooting took place. Federal prosecutors have told the family that they are monitoring the situation.

Officials with the attorney general’s office defend their investigation. They have appointed a special prosecutor from another county with experience in police-involved shootings, and they have worked closely with FBI investigators and federal attorneys, a spokesman said.

State investigators have reviewed footage from the hundreds of in-store cameras in the Walmart, have conducted more than 60 interviews, and have reviewed the backgrounds of officers involved in the shooting, according to a statement.

As for the video, DeWine is not required to release the footage to the public if it’s the subject of an ongoing investigation, said spokesman Dan Tierney.

“Under Ohio law, any materials that are obtained as part of an investigation don’t necessarily have to be released,” Tierney said in an interview. “The attorney general hasn’t released anything related to this investigation.”

In a news conference earlier this month, DeWine vowed to release the efforts of what he said was an in-depth investigation.

“The good news is that we have evidence, and we have pictures. The bad news is, it just takes a while to have it put together,” he said.

Neither Beavercreek Police nor Walmart representatives were immediately available for comment.

Wright said that unlike the recent police-involved shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., the Crawford case was all captured on video.

“Everyone can see what happened," he said. "All he was doing was what Walmart wants people to do: pick things up off the shelf and shop.”

Contact Hansen at matt.hansen2@latimes.com or @mtthnsn.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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