Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine will convene a special Greene County grand jury Sept. 3 to determine whether a crime was committed when Beavercreek police officers shot and killed John Crawford III on Aug. 5 at a Walmart store.
"I saw my son get murdered by law enforcement," John Crawford Jr. said Tuesday after viewing six minutes of Walmart surveillance footage of his son as DeWine and the Crawfords met at their attorney's office in Dayton. "I hope Mr. Attorney General does his duty," Crawford Jr. said. "We'll just have to wait and see."
Beavercreek Police Chief Dennis Evers said the day after Crawford III, 22, of Fairfield, was shot that he failed to comply with police commands to drop a MK-177 (.177 caliber) BB/Pellet Rifle made by Crosman and sold at Walmart. Evers took no questions that day or since but said preliminary indications were that Officer Sean Williams and Sgt. David Darkow "acted appropriately under the circumstances."
DeWine said his office is reviewing video from more than 200 cameras at the Pentagon Boulevard store. He said his office is also retaining an unnamed "use of force" expert on the matter "to help determine if the tactics and procedures the officers employed were appropriate under the circumstances."
The grand jury will be in session "for a number of days," he said.
DeWine refused to release surveillance video to any news organization, but said he wanted to be "open and transparent" with the Crawfords.
"Like all of us, Mr. Crawford's parents have questions about how this tragic event unfolded," DeWine said at a press conference on the steps of the courthouse where he was once a prosecutor. "We must remember that they are parents who have lost a son and they do deserve answers."
Investigators have made "significant progress," but DeWine stressed the investigation is ongoing but incomplete. As of Tuesday, investigators had taken more than 200 photos, collected 11 pieces of physical evidence and interviewed more than 50 witnesses. DeWine said up to 30 more witness interviews could be conducted and others re-interviewed.
"The good news is we have evidence and we have pictures. The bad news is, it takes a while to put it all together," DeWine said. "We are moving as quickly as we can."
The only call to 911 before the shooting came from Riverside's Ronald Ritchie, who told dispatchers he saw a man "walking around with a gun in the store." Ritchie also said the man was pointing a black rifle at people near the pet section and that "he's loading it right now." Later, Ritchie said, "He looked like he was trying to load it, I don't know." He then added, "He just pointed it at two children."
During the incident, customer Angela D. Williams, 37, of Fairborn, suffered a medical emergency while exiting Walmart and died a short time later at Beavercreek's Soin Medical Center. Williams' co-workers at Villa Springfield nursing home said Williams was going to get married that coming weekend.
The Montgomery County Coroner's Office said Crawford III died of a gunshot wound to the torso and that the killing was ruled a homicide.
LeeCee Johnson, of Fairfield, said she's the mother of Crawford III's two children and that she was on the phone with him when the incident occurred. She said she heard Crawford III say "it's not real" and officers start shooting and then yell at him to get down. Four 911 calls came in to dispatchers after shots were fired.
Attorney Michael Wright urged media outlets to seek release of the surveillance video. Neither he nor family members would discuss details of what they saw because of discussions with DeWine's office.
This newspaper has made multiple requests to obtain the footage.
"When everyone sees this video, it will illuminate the issues of this particular case," Wright said. "Mr. Crawford was doing nothing wrong when this occurred. He was threatening no one."
Wright said he's glad DeWine is going to convene the special grand jury.
"We're supporting the Ohio Attorney General's Office. We hope that they will do a full investigation," Wright said. "We believe that they will, in fact, move forward with the prosecution of these two officers."
The elder Crawford said he was numb after watching the surveillance video.
"It's just unbelievable. That's all I can tell you," Crawford Jr. said. "I pray that no one ever, ever has to go through what we're going through. It's unconscionable."
Beavercreek police and city law director Stephen McHugh have not answered repeated questions about whether the officers are still on administrative leave. Neither Beavercreek police nor Ohio's Bureau of Criminal Investigation have released a detailed incident report narrative, nor identified which officer's bullet killed Crawford.
Beavercreek Mayor Brian Jarvis said he will withhold judgment until all of the facts are made public by DeWine.
"At this point, it's up to the attorney general to complete his investigation," Jarvis said.
When asked what he has heard about this issue from the community: "Except for what I've read in the newspaper ... I really haven't heard much of anything."
DeWine declined to find parallels between Crawford's shooting and that of Michael Brown that set off more than a week's unrest in Ferguson, Mo.
"I'm not going to compare and contrast this with what's going on in Missouri," DeWine said.
Crawford's attorneys did compare those, saying the Beavercreek case may be worse.
"What we saw was an unjustified killing of John Crawford," Wright said. "Call it murder, call it manslaughter, call it whatever you want. It was the unjustified killing of this young man. It was unnecessary. It did not have to occur. And he was doing absolutely nothing wrong when engaged by Beavercreek police department."
NAACP Dayton Unit President Derrick Foward asked U.S. Attorney Carter Stewart to investigate the shooting. An FBI spokesman said Tuesday that the FBI is not investigating, but rather will oversee other agencies.
DeWine publicly extended his sympathies to the family — in person to Crawford III's parents on Tuesday — and by written notes to Angela Williams' family. He called the incident a tragedy.
"I think this is the only day since I've been attorney general, I wish I wasn't attorney general," he said.
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