Posted on Oct 02, 2014

The policemen who shot and killed John Crawford, an African-American male, will not face criminal charges after being cleared by an Ohio grand jury. The 22-year-old victim was holding a toy gun while browsing through the pet food aisle in a local Walmart as he was shot to death.

Surveillance footage shows Crawford holding the gun at his side moments before being shot.

Police arrived after 24-year-old Ronald Ritchie called 911 claiming that Crawford was pointing the gun at people, potentially intending to shoot someone or rob the store. In his signed witness statement, Ritchie also alleges that Crawford pointed his gun at the police officers before being shot.

Surveillance footage of the incident doesn’t back up any of Ritchie’s claims.

In the minutes of footage leading up to his death, at no point does Crawford point the gun at anyone. [NOTE: Crawford was off-camera for brief intervals during the sequence.] He simply picked up the toy gun that was on display in the sporting goods department and nonchalantly walked around the store.

As Crawford was shot, the footage definitively shows he did not point the gun at the approaching officers. Worse yet, it appears the officers fired almost immediately when they saw Crawford, without making much of an attempt at a peaceful resolution.

Still, the officers won’t face any criminal charges after killing a completely innocent person. For a police shooting to be “justified,” the officer merely needs to feel threatened. Whether an actual threat exists is beside the point.

To be fair, a fake gun can easily look real and it’s easy to see why an officer wouldn’t want to guess. But in this case, the suspect was isolated and the police had dozens of product shelves they could have used for cover. Even if it was real, there was no reason for them to feel threatened to the point of killing him. Deadly force is supposed to be the last resort, not the first instinct.

The testimony of Ronald Ritchie further complicates the matter. Sure, it’s possible that he truly believed the gun was real. We can even assume Crawford pointed it at people while he was off-camera. But even if that’s true, why did Ritchie lie about Crawford aiming at the police officers before being shot? For this reason, many people are calling for Ritchie to be criminally charged for deliberately making false claims. But that’s not going to happen.

The personal injury lawyers of Hupy and Abraham, S.C. know it can be difficult to deal with police. That’s why we’re offering FREE “Rules for Dealing with Police” cards to everyone. Following these rules will help you avoid an unfortunate situation.

Jill Erin Wellskopf
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