WHIO and Dayton Daily News contributed to this report
An Ohio man is dead after police are called into a Walmart for reports of a man walking through the store with a rifle. It turns out, a law enforcement source for WHIO said, that it wasn't a real gun but a toy, either a BB or pellet gun, that he had opened at the store Tuesday night.
WHIO reported a couple were in the hardware department when they saw John Crawford walking past them with a rifle pointed toward the sky. They followed Crawford through the store as they called 911 and warned other shoppers to stay away.
One witness, Ronald Ritchie said Crawford "was just waving it at children and people. Items.... I couldn't hear anything that he was saying. I'm thinking that he is either going to rob the place or he's there to shoot somebody else." The man looked kind of serious, Ronald Ritchie said. "He didn't really want to be looked at and when people did look at him, he was pointing the gun at them. He was pointing at people, children walking by."
Ritchie said he wasn't pointing it as if he was going to shoot, but waving it in their direction.
The couple didn't know police had arrived until they saw four or five officers appear in the pet section, where Crawford was standing.
"I heard, 'put it down, put it down,' " April Ritchie said. "I heard two shots after I saw him turn. He still had the weapon in his hand."
The Ritchies said the man fell backward when he was hit by the gunfire, but got back up and went toward the officer who shot him. That officer then tackled the man. Officers then handcuffed him and turned him on his back, Ronald Ritchie said.
Meanwhile, Crawford's relatives have contacted civil rights organizations, the NAACP and National Action Network, because they don't believe the shooting was justified.
LeeCee Johnson, the mother of Crawford's children, was on the phone with him when police shot him.
“We was just talking. He said he was at the video games playing videos and he went over there by the toy section where the toy guns were. And the next thing I know, he said, ‘It’s not real,’ and the police start shooting and they said, ‘Get on the ground,’ but he was already on the ground because they had shot him,” she said, adding: “And I could hear him just crying and screaming. I feel like they shot him down like he was not even human.”
Lamon Brown, Crawford's cousin, said, “He does not own (a rifle-like weapon). We think it was a toy,” We actually think it was a toy. After these things happen, they usually report what kind of gun it was, but they’re not saying what kind of gun it was."
Tasha Thomas, who identified herself as Crawford’s girlfriend and appeared in the audience with his family members at Wednesday’s police news conference, said that Crawford has two children and that she has known him for four months.
She said she drove him to the Walmart after picking him up at an outlet mall in Cincinnati. He was not armed when he entered the Walmart, she said. She said she was with him in the store, but was in another aisle when he was shot, Dayton Daily News reported.
“He did not have any type of gun on him,” she said. “It’s not fair.”