The federal investigation into the police-involved shooting of John Crawford III “has taken longer than some may have anticipated,” southern Ohio’s top federal prosecutor said.
In an exclusive statement to this news organization, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio Benjamin Glassman said the Crawford case remains a priority. The U.S. Dept. of Justice (DOJ) probe began Sept. 24, 2014 — more than 18 months ago.
“There are lawyers from the Civil Rights Division assigned to the matter, plus one trial attorney and one supervisor from the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” Glassman wrote. “All parties involved, as well as the public, deserve a fair, thorough, and prompt resolution. But fair and thorough have to come before prompt. We must be satisfied that the investigation is complete before reaching any conclusions.”
The federal probe was announced just after a Greene County special grand jury found no probable cause that Beavercreek police officer Sean Williams committed a crime.
Williams and Sgt. David Darkow responded Aug. 5, 2014, to a 911 caller from Beavercreek’s Walmart who told a dispatcher that a black male was waving a gun at people, including children, and that it sounded like the man was loading it.
Williams shot twice and killed Crawford, a Fairfield resident, after police said they gave Crawford two warnings in a couple seconds to drop what was a BB/pellet rifle Crawford picked up from an opened box on a store shelf.
Since the DOJ began its probe, there have been two U.S. Attorney Generals and Glassman replaced Carter Stewart — possibly interrupting the investigation’s continuity.
“Just like my predecessor, I take that obligation very seriously,” Glassman wrote. “So while we are committed to completing the federal investigation as quickly as we can, we’re not going to sacrifice getting it right just for the sake of getting it done.”
The ongoing probe has held up a federal wrongful death lawsuit brought by Crawford’s family against Walmart, Beavercreek police and others.
U.S. District Judge Walter Rice issued a decision Monday that Darkow and Williams would have at least an additional 90 days before giving depositions. Rice wrote that the delay is “in the interest of justice.”
Rice issued a stay Dec. 31, 2015, that lasted until March 30. Defense attorneys don’t want the officers to have to give depositions while the U.S. Dept. of Justice (DOJ) civil rights investigation is ongoing.
In their renewed motion to stay the depositions, attorneys for the Beavercreek officers wrote that a representative for Williams and Darkow had asked DOJ officials for a ballpark estimate of when the investigation would be done.
The brief said that the DOJ’s Sheldon Beer said: “We certainly understand your desire to know where we stand with the federal investigation, but would be remiss if we were to provide you with a time frame for its conclusion. We can only advise you that the matter is still open.”
Defense attorneys reiterated their argument in the brief.
“There continues to be a significant overlap between the pending criminal matter and this case, and the status remains the same,” defense attorneys wrote in a March 30 motion. “Defendants continue to face a substantial burden in this case, should it proceed, and they are forced to choose between invoking their privilege against self-incrimination and defending themselves in this civil action.”
Attorneys for Crawford’s family argue that Darkow and Williams already have given extensive statements about their involvement.
“Because Williams and Darkow, as suspects in the state criminal investigation, freely answered questions from law enforcement concerning the shooting, without raising any Fifth Amendment concerns whatsoever,” attorneys wrote in an April 1 motion, “their feigned disquiet about self-incrimination in this context is suspect and should not be accepted at face value.”
The motion points out that between six and eight times, Darkow and Williams have waived their rights against self-incrimination and attached as exhibits interviews both gave to Beavercreek police, Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation and rights waivers.