In a news conference on Thursday, the family of John Crawford III, a black man shot and killed by police at an Ohio Wal-Mart, demanded that the officers who killed him be brought to justice.
Crawford, 22, was shot on Aug. 5 by two white police officers, Sean Williams and David Darkow, in Beavercreek, Ohio. Crawford was holding an unloaded BB gun/air rifle that he picked up off a shelf in the Wal-Mart store. Another Wal-Mart shopper called 911 and said Crawford was waving the gun at customers, according to audio of the 911 calls released by Beavercreek Police. Police arrived at the scene and shot and killed Crawford. Police say Crawford was shot after he did not respond to commands from police to drop the weapon.
On Wednesday, special prosecutor Mark Piepmeier announced that the Green County grand jury found the officers were “justified” in their actions in shooting Crawford, and that the grand jury had decided not to indict the officers. Following their announcement, the Justice Department announced that their civil rights division would conduct an investigation of the case “and take appropriate action if the evidence indicates a prosecutable violation of federal criminal civil rights statutes.”
Also on Wednesday, investigators released surveillance footage from Wal-Mart cameras the day of Crawford’s death. There is no audio in the footage, so it is unclear whether officers gave commands to Crawford. However, it does appear in the footage that Crawford was not waving the gun at other customers, as was alleged by the 911 caller.
At Thursday’s press conference, Crawford’s father, John Crawford Jr, spoke along with three attorneys for the family, and demanded that the officers involved be indicted for their involvement in Crawford’s death.
“This is not the end. It is just the beginning. We are disappointed, we are not defeated. We will continue to fight for justice,” said attorney Michael Wright.
“Our primary objective as a family is to prosecute the officers. We’re not concerned with the civil issue in terms of a lawsuit or money, let’s be clear about that,” Crawford Jr. said. “Justice is simply getting a conviction for the man who killed my son,” he later added.
In terms of next steps, Wright said: “At this point, we’re weighing our options, but what we’re most concerned about is indictment of these officers.”
The lawyers also discussed the role race may have played in the shooting.
“It was an unarmed black man that got shot and killed in Wal-Mart, and we can’t hide from that. We believe that, yes, had Mr. Crawford been caucasian, maybe the outcome would have been different, but it’s very hard to say in fact that that would have been the case,” said Wright.
“He was a black man who was a U.S. citizen who’s afforded the same rights every American is afforded,” said attorney Shean Williams. “Whether he was a black man, white man, old or young, he’s afforded the same rights every person in America is afforded, and he shouldn’t have been shot, period,” Williams added.
Crawford Jr. also talked about his son’s life, describing his son as a “family man” who leaves behind two children. He also said his son had recently discussed going back to school to further his education.
Ohio Governor John Kasich also said in a statement Wednesday that he agreed with the DOJ’s decision to investigate the case.
“After talking with the attorney general and watching the video myself, I agree with this decision that a review by the U.S. Department of Justice is appropriate. This is a tragedy for the Crawford family and I share the concern of many in the community that this matter must be handled with the utmost seriousness and respect,” Kasich said.
Ohio is also an “open carry” state, meaning it is legal to carry firearms in public, and it is not a crime.
Williams and Wright stressed that Crawford was doing nothing wrong in the store, and the officers who shot him were in violation of the law. “They should not have shot this man. They need to follow the Constitution. There was no justification, no reason … he was no harm to the officers or anyone in the store,” said Williams.