Beavercreek police officer Sean Williams used force 10 times more than the staff average during his first eight years in the department. His 36 “response to resistance” incidents from 2006 through 2013 does not include the Aug. 5, 2014 shooting death of John Crawford III at Walmart.
According to information independently verified by this news organization and compiled by the attorneys for Crawford’s family, the other 57 officers that worked for Beavercreek in that time frame averaged 3.56 uses of force, though 20 of those officers were not employed for that entire time.
“He’s off the charts,” said Michael Wright, one of the Crawford family attorneys who filed a federal civil wrongful death lawsuit against Beavercreek police and Walmart. “This guy was basically an accident waiting to happen.”
Beavercreek police Chief Dennis Evers answered a question about how one officer could have 10 times the department’s average use of force incidents. Evers’ response began:
“The Beavercreek Police Department is committed to law enforcement excellence. In keeping with that commitment, the Beavercreek Police Department has successfully participated in the accreditation process and best law enforcement practices of the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) since 1999. Each time there is a use of force by a Beavercreek police officer, there is a multi-layered supervisory review all the way up to the Chief of Police.
“The purpose of this review is to ensure policy compliance with CALEA standards. Incidents involving Officer Sean Williams or any officer are subjected to this thorough review process to determine if the use of force was justified and in compliance with policy and training protocols. With the exception of the pending litigation regarding John Crawford, Officer Williams has never had a complaint filed against him for excessive use of force.”
Williams was disciplined after an internal affairs report — not a formal complaint — found that he violated several departmental standards when a U.S. Air Force captain said Williams “pushed past her” to talk to a teenager, swore and told her not to touch him during an investigation in August 2011.
A supervising officer wrote that Williams said of the incident that he “would have been justified grabbing her arm back and throwing her across the lawn.”
A March 2007 citizen complaint did allege that Williams shoved a woman and yelled at her. A supervising officer ruled the complaint unfounded after the complainant did not follow up to be interviewed.
Williams had multiple complaints against him for swearing at people and he was disciplined for it.
The second-most uses of force during that eight-year span was 19. Six officers overall had double-digit numbers of such incidents.
“Williams was the most violent officer on the force by a wide margin,” Wright said. “He was never disciplined for any of his previous violent encounters.”
Asked if Williams perhaps showed more initiative or worked in an area that had more use of force potential, Evers’ statement concluded:
“Certainly, the time of day and the district assigned may impact the number of use of force incidents involving an officer. An officer working in a retail area, for example, which is the case with Officer Williams, increases the likelihood that a use of force may be required.
“Retail areas, like shopping centers, bars and liquor establishments, often have higher crime rates because of incidents involving theft, drug and alcohol abuse, and assault. Citizens under the influence of drugs and alcohol are often combative and resist arrest.”
Williams also was the shooter in the department’s only other fatal case, a 2010 incident in which he was cleared by a grand jury after shooting Scott Brogli. Williams and other officers responded after 911 calls about a domestic violence incident at Primrose Place apartments. Beavercreek police said Brogli charged at Williams with a large knife.
“He had many citizen complaints against him,” Wright said of Williams. “John Crawford was the inevitable conclusion of poor training, little intra-departmental discipline, and typical protect your own police reaction to many prior violent actions by officer Williams.”
Williams shot Crawford, a 22-year-old Fairfield native at Beavercreek’s Walmart after a lone 911 caller said a black man was waving a rifle at people, including children.
Beavercreek police said Williams and Sgt. David Darkow told Crawford to drop the item — an air rifle he picked up from an opened box in the store — and then Williams fired twice with his own personal rifle.
Crawford’s family said Crawford — who was talking on his cell phone — had no time to react to any commands. A Greene County special grand jury led by special prosecutor Mark Piepmeier in September 2014 did not indict Williams.
“Departmental policy required Williams to assess the situation before using lethal force,” Wright said. “He violated that policy, failed to assess the scene, and pulled the trigger in under a second of first seeing John.
“Williams was paying so little attention to what John was actually doing — did not even notice John was on the phone talking to his girlfriend when he shot John. Thus, Williams failed in his duty to asses before killing someone.”
John Crawford Jr. said the two shots that ended his son’s life is “the fastest kill in American history.
“They’re still trying to find one faster,” Crawford Jr. said. “That in 33 hundredths of a second, that my son turned, aimed the gun, pointed it towards them and therefore he felt threatened for his life and he had to shoot him. And we can clearly see that that’s a lie. Everything that they said are lies.”
Williams’ evaluation from 2014 included a grade of exceeds expectations in enforcement tactics. “Sean closely follows use of force policies by never applying inappropriate amounts of force,” wrote reviewer Capt. Scott Molnar.
When told of Williams’ place on top of the response to resistance chart and his positive reviews, Crawford Jr. said, “The (police) culture is so demanding and is so powerful, that the good officers, a lot of them, are afraid to even challenge (it). They won’t do it. They won’t challenge the integrity of the culture in fear of backlash.”
Wright isn’t sure if Williams’ use of force statistics are evaluated in the ongoing U.S. Dept. of Justice investigation of the Walmart shooting.
“I would hope that this is information that they know, that they have and that they are considering when judging the conduct of officer Williams,” Wright said.
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