Over the past several days, the August 5 shooting of John Crawford III by police at a Beavercreek, Ohio Walmart has gotten stepped-up attention on MSNBC due to new developments in the case, but incredibly Fox News was actually the first cable news network to cover it.
The 23 year-old Crawford was shot and killed by police for, essentially, holding a toy gun while black. When another customer saw Crawford carrying an air rifle he had picked up from the shelf at Walmart, the customer called 911 and reported a black man carrying what looked like an AR-15 (which is legal to do in Ohio, anyway) and allegedly pointing it at people.
Police say Crawford was waving the air rifle and ignored their commands to put it down, but according to LeeCee Johnson, the other of Crawford's two children, she was on the phone with him at the time of the shooting:
“We was just talking. He said he was at the video games playing videos and he went over there by the toy section where the toy guns were. And the next thing I know, he said ‘It’s not real,’ and the police start shooting and they said ‘Get on the ground,’ but he was already on the ground because they had shot him,” she said, adding: “And I could hear him just crying and screaming. I feel like they shot him down like he was not even human.”
Crawford's shooting occurred in the media shadow of the chokehold death of Eric Garner, and just days before the Mike Brown killing in Ferguson, so until recently, his story has mainly been mentioned as part of the pattern of unarmed black people being killed in the streets, sidewalks, and everywhere else. This week, though, attorney for the Crawford family Michael Wright says that he has seen surveillance footage from the store that shows Crawford was leaning on the air gun, barrel pointed down, when police shot him "on sight."
That revelation has sparked a new raft of coverage on MSNBC, but it was Fox News who was first, among the cable news networks, to cover the shooting. On August 6, a full four days before Crawford's killing would make it to MSNBC's air on Up with Steve Kornacki, Fox News' Happening Now aired this report:
Now, I know it was only 15 seconds long, and didn't actually name Crawford as the shooting victim, but it was the first. It was also the last time Fox News reported on the story, according to the TV Eyes television transcript database.
So, where does that leave CNN? Well, normally, I'd do this sort of thing with a chart, but it's probably quicker of you just watch this:
Those two clips, from the August 16 edition of CNN Newsroom and the August 27 The Lead with Jake Tapper, respectively, are the sum total of CNN's coverage thus far.
The Crawfords and their attorney are pushing hard for the release of that surveillance footage, so if and when that footage is released and/or leaked to the press, this story should get a lot more attention. The Garner and Brown stories had a large surplus of what we in the news biz used to call "art," a key missing ingredient that could be at least partially responsible for the significantly dimmer light being shone on killings like Crawford's and Los Angeles' Ezell Ford. Of course, it could also be that the mainstream news media only has so much room for dead unarmed black people, and Mike Brown filled it right up.