The Beavercreek 911 dispatcher said she erred in telling officers that John Crawford III was loading a rifle with “bullets” because caller Ronald Ritchie never used that word, according to a deposition made public in the Crawford family’s wrongful death civil rights lawsuit against Beavercreek and Walmart.
The deposition of Beavercreek 911 dispatcher Yalonda Weber took place July 19, 2016 — nearly two years after officer Sean Williams shot and killed Crawford, 22, of Fairfield. Williams shot Crawford as he held an unpackaged BB/pellet rifle he picked up from a store shelf on Aug. 5, 2014.
In the filing in Dayton’s U.S. District Court, which provides the first public record from the dispatcher’s point of view, Weber told Crawford family attorney Samuel Starks that she made an “assumption” by saying bullets and knew it immediately but didn’t correct herself.
Beavercreek city attorney Neil Freund objected to Starks’ question about if Weber made mistakes, but witnesses are required to answer most questions in depositions.
“I made an assumption,” Weber said, then adding, “Mr. Ritchie advised that he was loading — he believed he was loading the weapon. … And I put that out there the first time. When I was questioned by the officer, I said, he believes he’s load — he’s loading it with bullets. I said bullets.”
“When did you discover that error?” Starks asked.
“I — I knew that I had said bullets and Mr. Ritchie had said — had said loading the weapon. I knew that from the moment I said it,” Weber answered.
“Why didn’t you correct it right after you said it?” Starks asked.
“Because loading a weapon — I made the assumption bullets, but he felt he was loading the weapon, and that’s — you put ammunition or bullets inside of a weapon,” Weber answered.
A message seeking comment about Weber or her deposition was not immediately returned by Beavercreek city law director Stephen McHugh.
In the deposition that took an hour and seven minutes, Weber also said the only questions Williams asked were if someone on the phone had eyes on Crawford and if the dispatcher could confirm someone thought he was loading the weapon.
“He’s like loading it right now,” Ritchie told a Fairborn dispatcher early in the 911 call — the first of a few times he talked about if Crawford was loading the item.
After telling a dispatcher he didn’t have any idea what Crawford was loading it with because he wasn’t going to get that close, Ritchie said he thought Crawford was holding a black rifle.
“You said you saw him put — load it?” Weber asked during the 911 call of which a transcript was filed in court documents.
“He looked like he was trying to load it. I don’t know,” Ritchie answered.
Immediately after that, an officer asked Weber if the caller had an eye on the man and she said, “Affirmative,” later adding, “Believes it’s a rifle, believes he just put some bullets inside.”
The officer answered, “Clear.”
Nearly a minute later, Ritchie told dispatchers the man pointed the weapon at two children.
Thirty seconds later, Ritchie twice said Crawford was on the phone, something officers said they didn’t know in their depositions and Weber never relayed, according to the transcript.
About 40 seconds after that, Williams fired and hit Crawford twice.
Police said Crawford didn’t respond to requests by Williams and Sgt. David Darkow to drop the item. Crawford family attorneys said Crawford had less than a second to hear and respond to anything officers said.
Williams was cleared by a Greene County special grand jury in September 2014, and a federal investigation ended in 2017 without criminal charges.
Weber, who started with the department in late 2011, said in the deposition that she was neither disciplined nor commended for her actions related to Crawford.
Weber also said there was no specific active shooter instruction in her training outline but that after the Crawford case, Beavercreek dispatchers have had active shooter education.
The other mistake Weber said she made was not telling Ritchie to hide or evacuate the store: “I should have asked him if he was in a safe position, and I did not,” she said.
Asked if, besides that, everything else she did in the call was appropriate, Weber said, “Yes.”
Over an objection from Freund, Starks asked Weber what her reaction was when she found what Crawford was holding.
“I just thought it was sad. It’s — it’s sad that he was carrying a — a pellet gun, and that’s what it was, you know. It wasn’t a — a rifle,” Weber said. “It was sad.”