Despite store surveillance footage that showed a young black man, John Crawford III, casually talking on his cell phone and clearly not threatening other shoppers in an Ohio Walmart store when he was shot and killed, a grand jury on Wednesday announced it would not indict the police officer, Sean Williams, for firing on the man.
The video, which prosecutors had kept out of the public domain until after the grand jury made its decision, was released shortly after the announcement not to indict the officer was made and shows that though Crawford was holding an unpackaged air rifle that he picked up on one of the store's shelves, he was shot from the side while talking on the phone and appeared to be given no warning or understand that police were even on the scene.
Watch the video: (Warning: graphic material)
In a statement made through their lawyers, the Crawford's parents expressed incomprehension and disgust over the decision not to indict Williams and said they were "heartbroken that justice was not done in the tragic death of their only son." The family and the attorney's representing them said the video footage makes it clear that the shooting was neither "justified" nor "reasonable" and that Crawford—who was speaking to the mother of his two children at the time he was killed—was not posing a threat anyone in the store, least of all the police officers.
"It makes absolutely no sense that an unarmed 22-year-old man would be killed doing what any American citizen does every day: shopping at a Walmart store," read the statement.
As the Guardian reports:
Police had repeatedly been told via a customer on the line to a 911 dispatcher that John Crawford III was pointing the gun at shoppers and may have loaded it with bullets. But the footage, released by prosecutors on Wednesday, shows Crawford walking past several customers in the minutes before he died without pointing the gun at them.
In the final moments of the footage from 5 August (warning, graphic images), Crawford is seen standing at the end of an aisle, pointing the gun downwards at his side, occasionally swinging it and holding it towards a store shelf containing pet products. Oblivious to the unfolding police response, Crawford, 22, talks casually on the phone with the mother of his two young sons.
A grand jury in Greene County declined on Wednesday to indict Sean Williams, the police officer who shot Crawford, on charges of murder, reckless homicide or negligent homicide. After hearing from 18 witnesses and considering video and audio evidence, the jurors concluded on their third day in session that Williams acted reasonably in shooting Crawford dead at the store in Beavercreek, a suburb of Dayton.
Backed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich and the state's Attorney General Mike DeWine, both Republicans, the Justice Department has vowed to review the case.
The Washington Post adds:
Crawford’s death did not attract as much national attention as the deaths of Michael Brown in Missouri or Eric Garner in New York. But all three had something in common: Crawford, Brown and Garner were all black men who died after encounters with police, with these situations drawing increased scrutiny to the way police officers use force.
“We are saddened and outraged by the Grand Jury’s decision to not indict these officers that acted maliciously and carelessly when they killed John Crawford III,” Rashad Robinson, executive director of the group ColorofChange.org, said in a statement.