John Crawford III was an African-American man from Cincinnati, Ohio. On Tuesday, August 5, only four days before police shot and killed unarmed teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Crawford got a ride up to the Dayton suburb of Beavercreek, a city known for discriminatory practices. Last year, a judge ruled that the city could no longer stop busses from bringing downtown, predominantly African American residents to the Fairfield Commons Mall, right across the street from the Walmart on Pentagon Blvd.
Only a few weeks after New York City police killed the unarmed Eric Garner after placing him in a chokehold Beavercreek police shot and killed Crawford while he was on the phone in the Beavercreek Walmart, speaking with the mother of his child.
Crawford had picked up a toy rifle inside of the store, right off the shelves. The rifle was not one of the real firearms that the store sells, which are locked up and kept in a restricted area.
All of this, of course, was captured on surveillance footage. The problem is, the Beavercreek police are trying to prevent that footage from being released. Now, the family of the victim is demanding the retailer release surveillance video on their own. Walmart says that they have released the footage to the Ohio Attorney General’s office. So far, they have have complied with the police request to refused release of the footage to Crawford’s family.
Michael Wright, the attorney for Crawford’s family, works with a Vandalia, Ohio-based legal group, known for taking on issues related to the legal use and carry of firearms. It should be remembered that across the nation, many predominantly Caucasian “Open Carry” protestors have been arming themselves with real – not toy, nor bb – rifles and going into stores like Walmart and Target. Ohio is an open-carry state. Had Crawford been white and carrying a real assault weapon, he would have been legally protected.
Wright said that the family and their legal team has not received a response from Walmart regarding the video so far, but that “It is my understanding that they have released some or parts of the video to the Ohio attorney general’s office, and I’m not completely sure what they have released to them.”
“At this point I still have not been given authority, reason, or access to the video,” Wright continued. “I’ve contacted the Ohio attorney general’s office to determine what action they’ve taken, and if they have viewed the video. I haven’t gotten any answer. The response is, this is still under investigation.”
Jill Del Greco, a public information officer for the Ohio attorney general’s office, has confirmed that the attorney general’s office did in fact receive the initial footage from Walmart. Del Greco says that the office has reviewed the footage and further requested surveillance footage from every camera in the store where the shooting took place.
Protests have been going on outside of Walmart since the shooting. A protest and vigil is planned for tonight from 6:30 outside of the Beavercreek location.
Crawford’s death has become part of a national conversation about the increasing militarization of police departments across America, and the use of excessive force by police, particularly when confronting unarmed African Americans.
(Article by James Achisa and Shante Wooten)