After refusing to do so for weeks, prosecutors released the surveillance video showing the police shooting and killing John Crawford III in an Ohio Walmart, just in time for the police officers involved to avoid a criminal indictment for the shooting.
On August 5, 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 said 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.”
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.”
Today, at a press conference announcing that the grand jury would not be indicting the two officers involved, Special Prosecutor Mark Piepmeier finally released the video of the shooting. The unedited footage not only shows that Crawford never held the weapon in a remotely threatening manner, but appears to have put it down before he was shot. Here’s the disturbing, unedited video:
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division says it will conduct a “thorough and independent review” of the shooting.
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. The failure to indict the officers, along with this video evidence, is likely to change all of that. No one who watches this video can conclude that police should be able to go into a store that sells guns, and shoot someone for doing this.
Update: Here’s a compilation of surveillance video from around the store, along with time-synced 911 dispatch audio:
You can watch the full press conference by Special Prosecutor Mark Piepmeier here. His presentation to reporters of what the grand jury saw plays more like a PBA fundraiser than a prosecution.