Sep 24, 2014 2:16 PM
No indictment in Ohio Wal-Mart police shooting
The Associated Press
CINCINNATI (AP) An Ohio grand jury found officers' actions were justified in last month's fatal shooting of a man holding an air rifle at a Wal-Mart store, a special prosecutor said Wednesday.
Special Prosecutor Mark Piepmeier said the Greene County grand jury in Xenia opted not to issue any indictments in the Aug. 5 death of 22-year-old John Crawford III.
A 911 caller reported Crawford was waving what appeared to be a rifle in the store. Police said he didn't obey commands to put down what turned out to be an air rifle.
Store surveillance video shown during the announcement shows Crawford walking in the aisles while apparently talking on a cellphone. Crawford picks up the air rifle which Piepmeier said had apparently been unboxed and left on a shelf and continues walking through the store. A short time later, police arrive and Crawford is shot twice while still holding the air rifle.
Prosecutor Stacey DeGraffenreid, who assisted Piepmeier, said Crawford was shot twice, once in the elbow and one in the side slightly from the front to the back. DeGraffenreid says no other shots were fired after Crawford went down, dropping the rifle.
Crawford's family says they believe the shooting was not justified and wants federal authorities to investigate whether race was a factor. Crawford was black, the officers are white.
An attorney for the family didn't immediately return a call seeking comment on the grand jury's decision.
The city of Beavercreek said a statement that it is asking the FBI to conduct a review to determine if there were any civil rights violations.
"However, based on the information the responding officers had and Mr. Crawford's failure to comply with the responding officers' orders, the officers did what they were trained to do to protect the public," the statement said.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said in a separate statement that it is an appropriate time for the U.S. Department of Justice to look into whether any federal laws were violated during this shooting.
DeWine says state authorities have been in frequent contact with federal officials and will turn over requested investigative files to the Department of Justice. The U.S. attorney's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Crawford's family also has repeatedly asked state investigators to release the surveillance video publicly, and Facebook groups and online petitions have also pushed for the release. A spokeswoman for Piepmeier said at least part of the footage will be released publicly.
The president of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus and the Rev. Al Sharpton's civil rights group National Action Network are among those who had called for the tape's release. A message was left for Sharpton's group on Wednesday.
Piepmeier said he agreed with DeWine's decision not to release the video before the jury reached its decision.
Wal-Mart customer Angela Williams, 37, also died after suffering a medical problem during the store's evacuation.
Associated Press writer Dan Sewell in Cincinnati contributed to this report.