Fairfield man shot by police at Walmart had air rifle, Ohio AG Mike DeWine says

Dead man identified as John Crawford

BEAVERCREEK, Ohio -- A 22-year-old Fairfield man was carrying an air rifle when he was shot to death by police inside a Walmart Tuesday night, Attorney General Mike DeWine announced Thursday.

MK-177 Air Rifle by Crosman

John Crawford was killed in a confrontation with two Beavercreek police officers after shoppers called 911 to report a man waving a rifle-like weapon at customers, including children, according to Dayton TV station WHIO.

Was Crawford threatening them? Or was he playing with them?

Were the officers justified in shooting him?

Those are questions for investigators - or jurors - to answer.

But it looked like a real gun to the customers who called 911.

According to witness accounts, Crawford may have taken the gun - an MK-177 (.177 caliber) BB/Pellet Rifle, DeWine said - from the sporting goods section into the pets department, where he was shot.

The gun, manufactured by Crosman, is known as a “variable pump air rifle.”

Beavercreek Chief Dennis Evers had asked the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), headed by DeWine, to investigate the incident.

A woman who said she was on the phone with Crawford at the time of the shooting said she heard Crawford say “it’s not real.” 

She said she heard officers start shooting and then yell at Crawford to get down.

“I could hear him just crying and screaming,” said LeeCee Johnson, of Fairfield.

Johnson said she is the mother of Crawford's two children.

Crawford died from a shot to the chest, the coroner said.

Evers had said officers acted appropriately when they shot Crawford. Evers said Crawford failed to comply with the officers' verbal orders.

Crawford's girlfriend, Tasha Thomas, had told media that she was with Crawford and he did not take a gun into the store, but he may have picked up a toy gun in the toy department. That's where she last saw him alive, she said.

Thomas said Crawford went into the store to purchase supplies to make s'mores.

A check of the Walmart on Wednesday showed it doesn’t carry toy guns in the toy section, but it does have real guns in glass cases and realistic-looking BB guns in the sporting goods section, including one BB gun box that was open.

A man who called 911 from inside the store at 8:21 p.m. Tuesday said he saw a man “walking around with a gun in the store.”

Ronald Ritchie, an ex-Marine, said the man was pointing a black rifle at people near the pet section and that “he’s loading it right now.” Later, Ritchie said, “He looked like he was trying to load it, I don’t know.” He then added, “He just pointed it at two children.”

Later, a person on the call can be heard yelling that he had been shot.

Evers did not reveal if one of both of the officers, Sean Williams and David Darkow, shot Crawford. Williams, a nine-year veteran on the force, was involved in Beavercreek’s first fatal police-involved shooting in 2010. Williams shot and killed Scott A. Brogli, 45, after the man charged him and another officer with a large kitchen knife.

BCI will not issue a judgment about whether or not the shooting was justified, a spokesperson said. It will file a report with the Greene County prosecutor's office, which may present the findings to a grand jury to determine if the officers acted properly or criminally.

Bobbie Odneal of Cincinnati said he had been Crawford's friend for seven years and he couldn't believe Crawford would be in a confrontation with police.

Odneal said Crawford was originally from the Fairmount area of Cincinnati and was living with his mother at an apartment in Fairfield.  

Johnson, the mother of Crawford's children, said the officers didn't have to shoot him. 

“I feel like they shot him down like he was not even human," Johnson said. "First of all, they used a rifle. They could have Tazed him, or … just used the handgun, not something so powerful or forceful like he was an animal or something."

A day after the shooting, Trenton Story of Fairborn entered the Walmart store at 11 a.m., when police tape was removed, and said the mood inside was surreal.

“It’s sad that this person was shot, but at the end of the day, the police officer has a duty to protect the people of the community and protect themselves,” Story said. “Some people may say maybe the police officer shouldn’t have done that, but for those people who weren’t there at that very moment, you can’t make that determination.”

Read more at WHIO.com

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