Beavercreek has renewed its motion to have the John Crawford III lawsuit trial held in two parts — one against Walmart and the other against the city, its police and officers.
U.S. District Judge Walter Rice ruled earlier this year that one trial would be held, but after Rice decided that 911 caller Ronald Ritchie’s “legal or proximate cause” would be debated, Beavercreek made another effort for separate trials.
“The Court’s inclination to permit (Walmart) to introduce hindsight evidence that the information provided by Ritchie to the police was intentionally misleading would further prejudice Officer (Sean) Williams’ defense of the claims against him,” Beavercreek attorneys wrote in the motion. “The allowance of this evidence strengthens the Beavercreek Defendants’ arguments that the Court should order separate trials for the claims against the (Walmart) Defendants and Officer Williams.”
The trial has been pushed back to Oct. 28 — more than five years after Williams shot twice and killed Crawford in Beavercreek’s Walmart — to give the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals time to decide on an appeal by Beavercreek to another ruling.
Crawford, 22, of Fairfield, was shot Aug. 5, 2014, after Ritchie told dispatchers a black man was holding a rifle, appeared to be loading it and waving it near people, including children. Crawford was holding a Crosman MK-177 BB/pellet rifle he found unpackaged on a store shelf.
Williams and Sgt. David Darkow responded to Walmart, and Williams fired within seconds of seeing Crawford after officers contend they shouted commands. Surveillance video and evidence showed Crawford was on his cell phone talking to the mother of his children.
The motion said plaintiffs argued that Ritchie owed no duty to Crawford “because imposing any sort of duty would have a chilling effect if the caller knew he could be liable for misperceiving events.”
The Beavercreek defendants agree with Rice’s ruling that public policy favors reporting of crimes and “citizens who in good faith report crimes or come forward as an eyewitness” and should be able to do so “without fear of civil liability.”
Crawford’s attorneys did not name Ritchie as a defendant and contend the fault lies with the actions of Beavercreek police and Walmart.
Beavercreek’s attorneys wrote they do not intend to defend their actions by trying to blame Ritchie or anyone else.
“However, (Walmart) plans to do so,” the motion said. “The jury is likely to be confused as to why one defendant is pointing at Ritchie while the other one is not. The potential for jury speculation and confusion as to this question is limitless.”
In its motion for summary judgment, Walmart attorneys wrote that the store’s managers were unaware a customer had called 9-1-1 and that Ritchie’s “false information” could not be predicted.
“Despite being very familiar with the process of loading a real rifle, Ritchie falsely stated to dispatch three times that Crawford was loading a rifle. …
“(Ritchie) also informed the dispatcher that Crawford was ‘pointing’ the gun at people and children — another false statement. The video surveillance does not depict Crawford ever pointing the air rifle at anyone or acting in an otherwise threatening manner.”
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