No indictment in Walmart shooting; DOJ to investigate

Surveillance video from Beavercreek Walmart shooting. (WDTN Photo)
Surveillance video from Beavercreek Walmart shooting. (WDTN Photo)



XENIA, Ohio (WDTN) – The Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice will now conduct an independent review of facts surrounding the Beavercreek Walmart shooting.  It will look for any violations of federal criminal civil rights statutes stemming from the August 5 shooting that took the life of John Crawford III.

A special Greene County Grand Jury declined to hand down an indictment against two police officers involved in the shooting.

The grand jury was comprised of nine jurors.  At least seven jurors must agree to indict.  It declined to indict Sergeant David Darkow and Officer Sean Williams on any criminal charges.

Special Prosecutor Mark Piepmeier walked the media through the August 5 shooting incident inside the store, including use of the controversial surveillance video from inside the store.grand jury

It shows John Crawford III walking around the aisles with the toy weapon in his hands.  It later shows the police officers approaching him.  You can see how Crawford interacted with officers, but also the 911 caller who warned police of what was happening.  2 NEWS elected not to show the portion of the video that shows John Crawford being shot.  It is a decision made out of respect to the family and to viewers like you.

Piepmeier said although Crawford did not break any laws, the officers were justified in taking the action they did.  Piepmeier also held a real gun in one hand at one point and a toy gun in the other to demonstrate how closely the two look alike and how hard it is to differentiate between them.  “This case is a tragedy for the family and for the police officers who were justified to take a life,” said Piepmeier.

Officer Sean Williams and Sergeant David Darkow shot and killed John Crawford III on the evening of August 5, 2014.  Public outcry insisted that the store surveillance video of the shooting be released, but Ohio Attorney General Mike Dewine declined, saying it would taint the jury.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office released the following statement following the grand jury’s decision:

“The Ohio Attorney General’s Office respects the work completed by the grand jury in Greene County. Now that the state criminal investigation has finished, it is an appropriate time for the United States Department of Justice to look into whether any federal laws were violated during this shooting. BCI has been in frequent contact with the FBI and the United States Attorney’s Office throughout its investigation and will turn over requested investigative files to the Department of Justice.”

The grand jury convened Monday, September 22. Jurors saw that controversial video, heard 911 calls from the store that night and all other impertinent evidence in the case.  Jurors were asked to decide whether charges should be filed in this case.  After hearing testimony from 18 people since Monday, the jury declined to indict either officer on any charges.

All this while demonstrators held vigil outside the Greene County Courthouse where the proceedings took place.

Surveillance video from Beavercreek Walmart
Surveillance video from Beavercreek Walmart

The City of Beavercreek released the following statement about the jury’s decision:

“The events of August 5th were tragic and we wish the outcome of that evening had been different. 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 officers followed accepted law enforcement training protocol in their response to the report of an active threat in the Wal-Mart store. The grand jury review of the evidence and subsequent no bill decision indicates the officers’ actions were not of a criminal nature and justified under Ohio law.

Although the state review process has been concluded, in keeping with the Beavercreek Police Department’s Organizational Values and our desire to uphold the public trust, City Manager, Michael A. Cornell and Police Chief Dennis Evers are requesting the Federal Bureau of Investigation conduct a separate review of the Beavercreek Police Department’s actions in this case to determine if there were any civil rights violations. The Beavercreek Police Department will cooperate fully with the FBI during this process. Until the conclusion of the review of the FBI’s recommendations by the Department of Justice, Officer Sean Williams will be assigned administrative desk duty within the police department.  The City will have no further comment pending the Department of Justice review.”

The Walmart shooting gained national attention with comments by high profile people like the Reverend Al Sharpton and radio personality Tom Joyner.

Joyner was with Crawford family attorney Michael Wright at the time of the announcement.  2 NEWS reached out to Mr. Wright for comment on the decision and what his plans are for the future of this case.  He tells 2 NEWS he plans to hold a news conference at 11:00 a.m. Thursday, but did release the following statement:

“It is absolutely incomprehensible that Beavercreek police officer Sean Williams was not indicted for the unlawful killing of John H. Crawford, lll. It makes absolutely no sense that an unarmed 22-year-old man would be killed doing what any American citizen does every day: shopping at a Walmart store. The Crawford family is extremely disappointed, disgusted and confused. They are heartbroken that justice was not done in the tragic death of their only son.”

2 NEWS will continue to follow this story with up-to-date Team Coverage.

 

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