The Justice Department has announced it’s ending an investigation into the fatal shooting of John Crawford III, a black man who was killed by a white Beavercreek Police Officer inside a Beavercreek Wal-Mart in 2014. A Crawford family attorney says the news comes as a major disappointment.
Federal authorities said they would not pursue civil rights charges in the case, citing insufficient evidence.
They said investigators analyzed store-surveillance video, interviewed witnesses and used an independent crime scene reconstruction expert in their review.
Crawford family attorney Michael Wright says he’s puzzled by the Justice Department’s decision.
“It’s just somewhat hard to understand, with the evidence that we have, that they do not believe, or they took the position that, the evidence is insufficient for them to prosecute these officers,” he says.
Nearly three years ago, Beavercreek Police Officer Sean Williams shot 22-year-old Crawford after a 911 caller reported a man waving a rifle inside the store.
Police say Crawford didn't obey commands to drop what they learned later was an air rifle he had picked up from a store shelf. Crawford’s relatives have said Crawford was given less than a second to respond to commands from police.
The shooting sparked protests nationwide.
Wright says he believes Crawford's case was mishandled by authorities.
“Clearly, Mr. Crawford was doing nothing wrong. Clearly, the officers did not assess the situation. Clearly, based on the officer’s statements, they lied regarding the facts and the circumstances leading to Crawford’s death. Based on the totality of that, I believe they should have moved forward with prosecuting the officers," Wright says.
The Beavercreek Police Department has maintained the officers committed no criminal violations and followed accepted law-enforcement protocol.
The federal investigation into the case was launched after a Greene County grand jury declined to indict anyone involved in the case.
In a separate statement Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman said prosecutors would have had to show beyond a reasonable doubt that officers willfully violated Crawford’s civil rights. Glassman said the evidence, “simply could not satisfy those burdens.”
Advocates organized a rally Wednesday afternoon in downtown Dayton to criticize the Justice Department's announcement the agency was calling off the investigation.
Bishop Richard Cox from the group Justice for Racial Equality and Brotherhood says, despite the end to the federal investigation, the Crawford family's fight for justice is far from over.
“We are dissatisfied with the Justice Department, who decided to close this case. We will be organizing this community and asking them to come out and support this family. We are calling on every citizen in Dayton, Ohio, to join us here. We are going to protest loud and clear,” he says. A coalition of Miami Valley faith-based and grassroots community groups, including Justice for Racial Equality and Brotherhood, is planning a demonstration in late July in downtown Dayton. The coalition is also organizing another event in Beavercreek in early August to commemorate Crawford's shooting.
The Crawford family has filed a civil lawsuit against Beavercreek police and Wal-Mart Stores alleging negligence and civil rights violations. Family attorney Wright says the case could go to trial in February of next year.
The city of Beavercreek and Wal-Mart have both denied the allegations in the suit.