Family members, gun rights advocates are questioning how a young father was quickly shot and killed by police at Ohio Walmart after a complaint was made that he was carrying and waving around a firearm.
John Crawford III, 22, was fatally shot by law enforcement inside a Beavercreek, Ohio Walmart on Aug. 5 within minutes of a 911 call from a fellow Walmart shopper. The caller told a 911 operator, who was relaying the information to the Beavercreek Police Department that a man meeting Crawford’s description was walking around with a gun in the store – pointing it at people.
“He’s waving it around,” said the 911 caller. “It looks like a rifle, it looks like he was loading it, I don’t know.” Immediately thereafter, the caller reports gun shots in the store and police on the scene.
“How does John Crawford a Walmart customer get shot and killed holding a BB gun in a store that sells BB guns?” asked Dayton attorney Michael L. Wright, a partner at Wright & Schulte LLC, who is representing the Crawford family at a press conference.
Wright said the shooting death of an innocent father of two raises serious public safety concerns. “This could be any one of your children in Walmart holding a BB gun that was mistaken for a real gun.”
In a statement after the shooting, Walmart said it will not have plans to change its sales of realistic looking pump-action air guns.
At the request of Beavercreek’s police chief, Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation said it will conduct a special investigation into the incident and turn over its finding to Montgomery County prosecutors, said a spokesperson for the bureau in a statement.
Angela Williams, 37, of Fairborn, who was shopping at Walmart that Tuesday, collapsed and also died reportedly from a medical condition while running away from the scene.
Richard J. Feldman, president of New Hampshire-based Independent Firearm Owners Association said there is a dual problem in this case: a young male person who is a black person and compare that to an older white woman in the socially-forbidden aisle – the public is not so concerned.
“It depends on the situation. The more rural the community the less unusual someone with a gun appears to others,” he said.
The U.S.A. is in dire need of true reform, said the author of “Ricochet: Confessions of a gun lobbyist” and a former staffer in the Reagan White House. “The police in America have become too aggressive and ‘on-edge’. We have more problems coming at us than we can handle.”
Sean Maloney, a legislative and region leader at Ohio-based Buckeye Firearms Association, said while it is impossible to know with 100 percent surety what happened that day, particularly before a complete investigation, the Crossman MK-177, which was the rifle that Crawford was holding is a BB gun with a prominent similarity to any sports rifle on the market.
“For example, the Crossman MK-177 is strikingly similar to the SCAR 308,” said the certified National Rifle Association instructor and current candidate for NRA board of directors. “It is very difficult to see the difference.” Although pellet or BB guns are certainly less lethal than a sports rifle, he said they fire-up with an air-driven projectile with enough force to do some harm including kill someone. “These pellets or BB’s are traveling at 12 to 15 hundred feet per second. That is lethal force.”
Buckeye is a grassroots political action committee dedicated to defending and advancing the right of Ohio citizens to own and use firearms.
Maloney, an attorney who assists those in need of Second Amendment protections, said air soft guns are different than BB guns because they do not actually fire a projectile pellet. The air soft firearms shoot little plastic pellets that sting but are non-lethal, he added. “Air soft guns are designed to be fired at each-other.”
In fact federal law prohibits manufacturers from selling air soft guns without a blaze orange solid plug permanently affixed to the muzzle end of the barrel so that law enforcement can distinguish the air soft gun from a real one, he said.
Maloney said he represented several conceal carry holders that have rightfully brandished their firearms in reaction to a fear of death or bodily injury from someone with an air soft gun or a BB gun that looked real.
The legal threshold is fear of serious bodily injury or immediate death whether it is a real gun, an air gun or a BB gun, he said. The instant case makes for a difficult situation for police officers who are being given real-time information and are immediately confronted with a threat of serious bodily harm or an imminent deadly threat because of a real looking firearm, he said. “The 911 call coupled with the realistic firearm used makes for a very volatile situation.”
The best advice that Maloney said he gives to his clients is to follow the instructions of the police. In all instances, whether it is at the side of the road or shopping at a chain store, there will always be time later to argue one’s innocence, he said. “If a police officer is telling you to drop it, even if it is a water gun, follow the instructions and drop it.”