The family of an John Crawford III, African-American man shot and killed by police in a Wal-Mart store in Ohio, is demanding the retailer release surveillance video of the events that led to his death. Wal-Mart has released the footage to the Ohio Attorney General's office, but has refused to release it to Crawford's family.
The killing of Crawford took place just days before the police shooting death of another black man, Michael Brown, in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Brown and and Crawford's deaths have re-ignited a national conversation about police brutality and racial profiling -- and whether the tactics of law enforcement authorities have gone too far.
Crawford, 22, was at a Wal-Mart store in the Dayton suburb of Beavercreek, Ohio last week. He reportedly picked up a toy rifle within the store and was carrying it around the store while talking on his cell phone, which alarmed other shoppers who called the police. The police station reports that when officers arrived, they asked Crawford to put down the weapon, and opened fire when he failed to comply. He later died of his gun shot wounds at a nearby hospital, where his death was ruled a homicide by the Montgomery County coroner’s office. Family members of Crawford told local news that he entered the store unarmed, and picked up a toy gun or BB gun while browsing in the store.
Calls to the Beavercreek Police Department were not returned.
Michael Wright, the attorney for Crawford's family, told msnbc that the family is requesting Wal-Mart release surveillance video from the store on the night of Crawford's death, but Wal-Mart has not responded even though the store has released the video to the Ohio attorney general's office.
"We have not reviewed the video, and we believe that is very important. Second, we are trying to find out the communication between Wal-Mart security, if there was any, and the Beavercreek police department," Wright told msbnc.
He said that they had received no response from Wal-Mart regarding the video so far, but said that "It is my understanding that they have released some or parts of the video to the Ohio attorney general's office, and I'm not completely sure what they have released to them."
"At this point I still have not been given authority, reason, or access to the video," Wright said. "I've contacted the Ohio attorney general's office to determine what action they've taken, and if they have viewed the video. I haven't gotten any answer. The response is, this is still under investigation."
Jill Del Greco, a public information officer for the Ohio attorney general's office, confirmed to msnbc that the attorney general's office received the initial footage from Walmart and reviewed it, and then further requested surveillance footage from every camera in the store where the shooting took place. Del Greco says Wal-Mart complied and delivered all the footage to the attorney general's office on Monday, and that they are now in the process of reviewing it. Del Greco also said they will not be releasing footage to the family or to the media until the investigation is completed.
In addition to the Ohio attorney general's office, Wright said the family had contacted the U.S. attorney's office to request an investigation, and had also spoken with civil rights groups including the NAACP and the National Action Network about Crawford's death.
"At this point, we are all waiting to see what's on this video surveillance," Wright said, "and then we can make a determination. We can't get inside those officers' heads to determine what they were thinking at the time they shot and killed John Crawford."
Crawford's death has become part of a national conversation about excessive force and racial profiling that was ignited with the killing of Trayvon Martin and has been revived this summer after a series of deaths of African-Americans at the hands of police. Crawford's killing happened on Tuesday, August 5, just four days before police shot and killed unarmed teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, and just a few weeks after New York City police killed Eric Garner after placing him in a chokehold for the crime of selling loose cigarettes.
In the four days since Michael Brown's killing, Americans across the country have weighed in, and protesters in St. Louis have demanded answers from the Ferguson police about why the police shot an unarmed teenager. Even President Obama has weighed in, calling Brown's killing "heartbreaking."