XENIA, Ohio - The U.S. Department of Justice announced it will review a fatal officer-involved shooting inside a Beavercreek, Ohio, Walmart on the same day a special grand jury decided not to indict anyone involved in the Aug. 5 death of John Crawford III.
"The Supreme Court of the United States said you can't judge this sitting at home on a Sunday afternoon, drinking a beer, watching the Bengals," special prosecutor Mark Piepmeier said Wednesday, referring to the Greene County grand jury in Xenia.
"You have to put yourself in their shoes at that time with the information they had."
WATCH THE STORE SURVEILLANCE VIDEO BELOW
The grand jury, which convened Monday, considered charges of murder, reckless homicide and negligent homicide, but they found the officers were "justified in their actions," said Piepmeier, the assisting prosecuting attorney for Hamilton County.
"Split-second decisions in confronting these type of situations are not a crime unless based on all the circumstances a jury believes that they were unreasonable in what they perceived that day and the way they reacted to it," he said.
WATCH THE NEWS CONFERENCE IN THE MEDIA PLAYER ABOVE
Crawford, 22, was carrying a BB/pellet rifle he picked up in the store when Beavercreek police officers responded to a 911 call saying a man in the store was waving a gun and pointing it at customers. The officers said they shot the Fairfield man because he ignored commands to drop the rifle, according to the Dayton Daily News .
MK-177 Air Rifle by Crosman - the model John Crawford was carrying.
"Just a horrible set of circumstances that if any one wasn't present none of this would have happened," Piepmeier said.
Crawford's family disputes that claim and says they're "disgusted" by the outcome.
"I think this is some BS," said Crawford's mother, Teresa Sherrod. "It was a set-up from the beginning."
Crawford's family will hold a news conference Thursday morning after releasing this statement:
"The Walmart surveillance video and eyewitnesses prove that the killing of John H. Crawford, lll was not justified and was not reasonable. It is undisputed that John Crawford, lll was in Walmart as a customer and was not posing a threat to anyone in the store, especially the police officers.
"The undisputed evidence also shows that Officer Sean Williams shot and killed Mr. Crawford while his back was turned and without adequate warning. Needless to say, there was definitely sufficient evidence and probable cause to move forward with criminal charges."
Williams will be on desk duty pending the outcome of the federal investigation, WHIO reported.
Piepmeier showed the surveillance video to the public for the first time at one of two news conferences on Wednesday.
The footage shows Crawford holding the air rifle to his shoulder and walking around the store. Several police officers are seen rushing into the Beavercreek Walmart with guns drawn toward Crawford. The grainy surveillance video shows an officer confronting Crawford who is coming around the corner in the store. There is no audio in the video.
After the grand jury proceedings concluded, Piepmeier walked those in attendance through what took place in the video.
"Two shots will be fired at Mr. Crawford. You'll see him go to the ground then disappear behind this end cap. The officers are unsure whether he's even shot or not at that point, but he disappears. It's like two seconds later he reappears and is coming -- he has dropped the gun at that point. He actually reappears and he appears to be running back down this aisle," he narrated. "The officer is only about five to 10 feet ahead of him at that point and even though he's coming towards him, he does not fire additional shots. He's got like a 28 magazine rifle at the point. He fires two shots. Mr Crawford appears to fall to the ground go around the corner -- the rifle is dropped -- and then as the officer continues up this aisle you'll see Mr. Crawford reappear but no further shots are fired.
"You can see the gun is dropped. Again, Mr. Crawford disappears for a moment. The officer will close on him and again no more shots were fired at that point."
While not all police shootings go to a grand jury, Piepmeier said this situation required it due to the fact Crawford was "unarmed and he wasn't doing anything wrong, but police officers didn't know either of those facts."
Vince Pope, attorney for the officers involved in the shooting, released the following statement: "I believe the grand jury's decision; it's absolutely the right decision, that the officers acted well within their training."
Derrick Foward, president of the Dayton Unit of the NAACP, disagreed.
“The Special Grand Jury in Greene County made the wrong decision. It’s a sad day in the history of Dayton," Foward said. "We will be calling for a full and complete investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice."
Crawford's family stated in their
release they want federal authorities to look into whether race played a role in the shooting. Crawford was black, the officers are white.
National attention on the case heightened after a police-involved shooting of an unarmed black man, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri. It happened four days after Crawford's death. Several residents of the St. Louis community came to the Dayton area to protest in the days leading up to the decision by the grand jury.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich said he agreed the decision should be evaluated at the federal level.
“After talking with the (Ohio) Attorney General and watching the video myself, I agree with his decision that a review by the U.S. Department of Justice is appropriate," Kasich said in a release moments after the decision was announced.
"This is a tragedy for the Crawford family and I share the concern of many in the community that this matter must be handled with the utmost seriousness and respect," he continued. "I’ve consulted with local leaders, including leaders in the African-American community, and I applaud the example they have set of calm, restraint and patience.”
Just hours after those comments, the Department of Justice put out a release saying it is launching an independent investigation into the "facts and circumstances surrounding" the shooting.
"The Civil Rights Division, the United States Attorney’s Office, and the FBI have been monitoring the state’s investigation of this case," the statement reads. "The Civil Rights Division, the United States Attorney’s Office, and the FBI will conduct a thorough and independent review of the evidence and take appropriate action if the evidence indicates a prosecutable violation of federal criminal civil rights statutes."
Special prosecutor Stacey DeGraffenreid said they are preparing to give the DOJ "everything that we have" to help with the process.
The Crawford case is the county's third police-involved fatal shooting in five years. There were no indictments following the previous two instances.
WCPO reports Tom McKee and Evan Millward contributed to this report.