Last evening a large group of protesters delivered a letter to the Beavercreek PD demanding the release of the Walmart security footage that may shed some light on the events that surrounded the shooting of John Crawford on the evening of August 5, 2014. Questions continue to linger unanswered and the public continues to be divided by the silence of Beavercreek PD. Here are 10 questions which should be asked of the Beavercreek PD and answered as soon as possible.
1. Why call the police to start with?
The State of Ohio is an “open carry” state, which means that it is legal to openly carry a firearm (such as a rifle or pistol) anywhere in public, without a permit, unless it is a prohibited space such as a government building or a school. After the shooting took place, we learned that the rifle carried by John Crawford III was not a firearm, but an air-rifle. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Fireams and Explosives defines a “firearm” as “any weapon which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive.” An air-rifle is not a firearm, however even if the rifle was in fact a real firearm, he was not breaking any laws, nor was he violating any Walmart policies as Walmart has always allowed open-carry in their stores. The single 911 caller claimed that John Crawford III was “waving the gun around” without going into many details about the meaning of his words. Initial reports also claimed that he pointed the gun at children; these statements were retracted later and denied by the caller. So why did the Beavercreek Police Department acted in such a rushed and deadly manner as a result of one single 911 caller? According to his own words, Ronald Ritchie has seemingly incited other Walmart customers to become panicked when they appeared to not have been worried about someone holding an air-rifle in the store.
2. What does the security footage show?
A very important reason for the Herald and others requesting the footage of the shooting is the desire to know the facts. Police apologists have claimed repeatedly that John Crawford III “deserved to get shot” because he refused to drop the firearm when he was ordered to do so. If that is the case, why is the footage not being released to the public? The identities of the two officers involved in this incident have already been released so it is unlikely for the public release of the video to negatively affect any subsequent investigation. Furthermore, the security footage would also substantiate or negate the initial claims made by the 911 caller, namely that John Crawford III was pointing the gun at children and waving it around.
3. When did the second victim have a heart attack?
Various witnesses who were present there shortly before and after the incident have repeatedly claimed that the Walmart atmosphere was normal and peaceful. Nothing out of ordinary was reported even until the point of the shooting, with the exception of the 911 call placed by Ronald Ritchie. Based on various observations and analysis of the statements made by Ritchie, he appeared to have been the only one observing something "criminal" taking place and admitted to getting the attention of other Walmart customers who were not initially alarmed. Furthermore, did the second victim of this incident, Angela Williams, die from her heart attack before the police started shooting inside the store, or after? All reports seem to indicate that all other 911 calls took place after police shot John Crawford III, which is when the “store erupted into chaos” and everyone ran for the exits. Did the police shooting cause Angela Williams to panic and run away and die?
4. What is the exact timeline of the shooting?
There is no clear timeline of the shooting and of the events which transpired, and as the Beavercreek Police Department has refused to answer many questions, it is nearly impossible for the public to understand what exactly transpired and when. The lack of a police report only makes the confusion worse.
5. Which officer pulled the trigger?
While the Beavercreek Police Department released the names of two officers involved in the incident, it is still unclear which one actually pulled the trigger. Sean Williams and David Darkow are the two officers identified as being the first responders to the store, however the identity of the shooter has not been made clear by the department, with hints leading to conclude that Sean Williams was the shooter. This is important because he was involved in another deadly shooting in 2010 when he shot and killed someone holding a knife. This could show a pattern of violation of policies and use of deadly force by Sean Williams. Two deaths within four years may indicate a pattern of violence and unnecessary us of force.
6. Where is the police report?
Up to this point there has been no official police report released. Why not? How could a police report be written months after the incident and have credibility at all? The lack of an exhaustive report covering the incident is a serious violation of investigative practices. The officers involved should have written a report immediately after the incident and the Beavercreek PD should have released the report to the public. By not writing a report, the officers are being protected and are being given the opportunity to manipulate the truth after the fact or outright lie about what took place. A subsequent investigation would have shown that either their report match the facts of the case or that the report is not truthful. In either case, the lack of a report is highly irregular and not conducive to a credible investigation.
7. Why is there a private law firm involved?
Soon after the shooting, the Beavercreek Police Department retained the firm Coolidge Wall, based in Dayton, Ohio. All requests for information, or any questions related to the incident are directed to this law firm. Even Public Record Requests, which are a protected right under Ohio law, are being approved or denied by this private law firm. This is something I have never seen as a journalist. It is irregular and could even be a violation of Ohio Public Records laws. If there is nothing to hide, why did the Beavercreek Police Department lawyer up so quickly and build a wall of silence rather than being completely open and frank about the investigation?
8. How much time did the victim have to drop the air rifle?
One point of contention regarding the shooting is the issue of John Crawford III being given a warning to drop the air rifle he was holding in his hands. It appears that at the time of the shooting, John Crawford III was on the phone with the mother of his two children. One report claimed that his phone was placed between his left shoulder and his left ear while he was holding the rifle with both his hands. When ordered by the police to drop the air rifle, he stated “It is not real” after which gun shots were heard. What is unclear is how much time he was given to comply with the order? It is quite likely that someone who is engaged in a phone call may be distracted enough to not be able to comply within one or two seconds after being surprised by shouting men in Walmart. Was he given one or two seconds? Ten seconds? How much time was John Crawford III given from the time he was ordered to drop the air rifle until he was shot?
9. What evidence is there for shoplifting accusations?
Various comments posted on Facebook forums which have been created to support the actions of the Beavercreek Police Department have accused John Crawford III of shoplifting or indicated that he was there to steal. He apparently lived about 45 minutes away so he did not “belong” in Beavercreek and therefore his presence in the store is highly unusual. These accusations are of course, empty of any substance and should go back to the release of the Walmart footage. If the security footage from Walmart shows John Crawford III shoplifting, then the accusations will be justified; however it is inappropriate for the Beavercreek PD or their apologists to even imply that they knew the reason his visit to Walmart was to steal merchandise. This seems to be just a desperate effort to smear the victim while justifying the actions of the police officers. There is no evidence at all to support these claims and they resemble the accusations made against Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO after he was also killed my police. Even if the accusations of shoplifting are true, someone does not deserve to be shot in a store simply for shoplifting merchandise from Walmart. When did police officer become judges, jury and executioners in the United States of America?
10. Who is behind the various Facebook groups in support of the Police actions?
At least one group was created on Facebook to defend the actions of the Beavercreek police officers. This in itself is not anomalous, however many of the comments associated with these groups are beyond disturbing. Many comments appear to use race as a dividing factor, they direct insults at John Crawford III and his family and generally speaking shift blame to him rather than the shooters or the police officers involved. There seems to be a deliberate effort to undermine the facts of the incident and use race baiting as a vehicle to distract from what happened: a young man who was not breaking any laws, was not harming anyone and was not holding a firearm, was shot to death by police even after he supposedly told them the rifle in his hands was not real. The death of this man seems to be taken in a very casual manner, with one commenter stating “I’m glad the piece of sh*t is dead. He had what’s coming to him.” This is outrageous and indefensible. Those who have created these groups to facilitate and promote this language should be ashamed.