CINCINNATI (AP) — A grand jury looking into the fatal shooting of a man by police in an Ohio Wal-Mart will have to sort out conflicting accounts to determine whether charges should be filed in a racially charged case that has drawn national attention.
The special grand jury is to be sworn in Monday to hear evidence in the fatal shooting last month of John Crawford III, a Black man, inside the store in a Dayton suburb. Crawford was killed while carrying an air rifle his family said he’d taken off a store shelf.
It’s not known how long it will take for the grand jury to make a decision on charges. The family’s attorney says they are cautiously optimistic charges will be filed.
Here’s what is known publicly about the shooting and questions that grand jurors will try to answer:
On Aug. 5, a man inside a Wal-Mart in the Dayton suburb of Beavercreek called police to say there was “a gentleman walking around with a gun in the store.”
“He’s like pointing it at people,” 911 caller Ronald Ritchie told a dispatcher. At one point, Ritchie said the man appeared to be loading what looked like a rifle and was “waving it back and forth,” according to a recording of his call.
Later, sounds like gunshots and shouts can be heard in the background.
“Police officers are here,” Ritchie told the dispatcher. “They’re on the scene.”
John Crawford III, the man holding what Ritchie said looked like a rifle, was shot in the torso by police and died at a hospital. Angela Williams, a 37-year-old Fairborn woman, also died after suffering a medical problem during the store’s evacuation.
Two officers — Sgt. David Darkow and Officer Sean Williams — were placed on paid administrative leave. Darkow has since returned to duty, while Williams remains on leave. The officers have not returned calls seeking comment.
On Aug. 7, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced that the state’s crime bureau had taken over the investigation at the request of Beavercreek police. DeWine said investigators determined that Crawford had an air rifle; his parents say he had taken it from a shelf in the store.
DeWine later named veteran Ohio prosecutor Mark Piepmeier, an assistant prosecuting attorney and chief trial counsel in the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office, to present evidence to the special Greene County grand jury in Xenia.
WHAT’S IN DOUBT:
Beavercreek police have said that Crawford was fatally shot when he wouldn’t drop the weapon and that initial investigations indicated the officers responded appropriately. However, it’s unclear what specifically prompted the police to shoot and whether police at the scene knew the weapon was an air rifle before they fired.
Crawford’s family has said he was on the cellphone to the mother of his two children when police arrived. They say he posed no threat and dispute the 911 caller’s description of Crawford and question whether Crawford even heard any police commands to put down the weapon.
Crawford’s father was allowed to view store surveillance video and family attorney Michael Wright says it clearly shows Crawford was “doing nothing more or less than shopping.”
DeWine has refused calls to release the video publicly, saying it could compromise the investigation and taint a future jury pool if the case resulted in charges.
The family also wonders whether race could have been a factor in the shooting. Both officers involved are White.
Crawford’s family has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate whether Crawford’s civil rights were violated.