John Crawford III.

Beavercreek appeal in Crawford case will delay trial until October

Beavercreek appealed a federal judge’s decision to not grant its police officer qualified immunity in the John Crawford III civil case, which will delay the trial until Oct. 28.

The notice of appeal to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals filed Friday will push the trial past the fifth anniversary of Crawford’s death in Beavercreek’s Walmart.

U.S. District Court Judge Walter Rice recently ruled that most allegations against Beavercreek police officer Sean Williams — who shot twice and killed Crawford, 22, of Fairfield, on Aug. 5, 2014 — will continue.

Some counts against Beavercreek and police Chief Dennis Evers will remain, while all counts against Sgt. David Darkow were dismissed.

During a teleconference Friday, Rice rescheduled the trial from Feb. 4 until Oct. 28 to allow for an appellate decision, according to the case docket.

“That means that any trial going forward against Officer Williams will have to wait until the Sixth Circuit rules on his appeal,” Crawford family attorney Michael Wright said Friday.

“At this point, (Beavercreek’s) position on this case over the last 4½ years has been such that I am definitely not surprised that they appealed … Rice’s well-reasoned opinion.”

Beavercreek city law director Stephen McHugh had no comment. Other attorneys representing Beavercreek have previously said they don’t comment on active litigation.

Rice is close to filing a decision on whether counts against Walmart would continue to trial. Walmart had moved for summary judgment, saying the company should not be held responsible for the actions of Crawford or the Beavercreek police.

Wright said if Walmart appealed Rice’s decision on their motion, it would not further delay the trial because Walmart isn’t the category of defendant who can appeal during a case.

“We’re just happy that we will have the opportunity to let a jury hear this case,” Wright said.

Beavercreek attorneys wrote that they are appealing the parts of Rice’s decision denying Williams summary judgment upon the doctrine of qualified immunity — which shields government employees from lawsuits for discretionary actions during their official capacity unless those actions violate constitutional rights.

They also wrote Williams and Evers are appealing Rice’s ruling denying them summary judgment on state law claims based on immunity pursuant to Ohio law.

Crawford was holding a Crosman MK-177 BB/pellet rifle he found unpackaged on a store shelf. The lone 911 caller, Ronald Ritchie, told dispatchers a black man was holding a rifle, appeared to be loading it and waving it near people, including children.

Williams and Darkow responded to Walmart, and Williams fired within seconds of seeing Crawford after allegedly shouting out commands. Crawford was on his cell phone talking to the mother of his two children.

“The facts alleged, viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs, could support a finding that Williams violated Crawford’s Fourth Amendment rights,” Rice wrote in his 76-page decision.

“Genuine issues of material fact preclude summary judgment in favor of either party on the question of whether Officer Williams reasonably believed that Crawford posed an immediate threat of serious physical harm to the officers or to others such that the use of deadly force was warranted.”