A video was released by officials today in which a young black man is shot by police at an Ohio Walmart store while carrying a toy gun. The video's release came the same day that a grand jury decided not to press charges against anyone involved in the fatal shooting.
Following the decision today the US Department of Justice also announced it would review the incident, which took place at a Beavercreek, Ohio Walmart on August 5.
In the distant surveillance footage from inside the store the victim, 22-year-old John Crawford, III, is seen walking through the store and grabbing the toy pellet rifle from the shelf. Later, he is seen with the pellet rifle at his waist and hoisting it up to his shoulder at attention, while standing in the corner of an aisle. It's unclear exactly how the events play out in the final moments of the video, but Crawford appears to lose control of the gun and lunge forward. Police officers are then seen rushing down the aisle towards Crawford.
According to police, Crawford ignored orders to put down the pellet gun.
The video was shown by the special prosecutor on the case at a press conference announcing the grand jury's decision not to indict anyone involved on the charges being considered — which included murder, reckless homicide, and negligent homicide. Special Prosecutor Mark Piepmeier said they determined the officers were "justified in their actions."
Though Crawford's family has pushed for the release of the video for weeks, the state attorney general denied its release until today, fearing it could harm the investigation or influence the jury pool.
Crawford's family issued a statement after the jury's decision, saying:
"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 family wrote in a release after the announcement of the grand jury's decision.
"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."
The lawyer for the officers supported the decision not to indict. Ohio Governor John Kasich said today that he supports a review of the incident.
"After talking with the [Ohio] Attorney General and watching the video myself, I agree with his decision that a review by the US Department of Justice is appropriate," Kasich said in a statement. The governor said he recognized that this was a tragedy for the Crawford family, and added that he had met with African American leaders in the community.
"I applaud the example they have set of calm, restraint, and patience," he added.
Within hours of the decision, the DOJ issued a press release announcing the plans to conduct a "thorough and independent review" of the case. The review will be carried out by the DOJ's Civil Rights Division, the Southern District of Ohio's US Attorney General's Office, as well as the FBI.
In the statement, DOJ officials said they would "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."
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