September 1, 2014 | Posted by Nick Chiles
While Ferguson, Missouri, still simmers, about 200 people rallied outside an Ohio Wal-Mart over the weekend to demand that police release a surveillance video showing how John Crawford was fatally shot by police after he had purchased a toy gun at the store.
The crowd rallied Saturday and Sunday, carrying signs and chanting, “Release the tape.” Organizers said they expect the Rev. Al Sharpton to travel to Ohio in the coming weeks to draw more attention to the case.
A special grand jury is scheduled to meet Sept. 22 to consider charges in the case, but Crawford’s parents want a federal investigation. They have reportedly met with U.S. attorney Carter Stewart, who assured them the Justice Department was monitoring the case, according to family attorney Michael Wright.
Ohio attorney general Mike DeWine has said he won’t release the surveillance video because it could potentially taint a jury pool if the case results in a trial.
“I think that it is playing with dynamite, frankly, to release that tape at this point,” DeWine told the Dayton Daily News. “And I think the dynamite simply is that it blows up and you can’t get a fair trial. That’s what we worry about.”
Last week, Crawford’s family and their attorney were shown the surveillance video. Wright said Crawford, a 22-year-old father of two, can be seen on surveillance video with his back to officers, leaning on a toy gun and talking on a cellphone when police shot him.
Police had been summoned Aug. 5 to the Wal-Mart in Beavercreek, near Dayton, by a former Marine who reported that a man was carrying what appeared to be an AR-15 rifle. What Crawford was actually carrying was an unpackaged MK-177 (.177 caliber) BB/pellet rifle he had just bought in the store’s toy department.
Though police had claimed that Crawford ignored their commands to drop the weapon — and the former Marine who called in the report and witnessed the shooting said Crawford “looked like he was going to go violently”— Wright said after he viewed the footage with Crawford’s family it’s clear the police account wasn’t accurate.
“John was doing nothing wrong in Wal-Mart, nothing more, nothing less than shopping,” Wright said, according to rawstory.com.
Wright said Crawford was, in fact, facing away from the officers and probably didn’t hear them because he was talking on the phone with his girlfriend, who was with his parents at the time.
The attorney said as Crawford leaned on the pellet gun like a cane, he was “shot on sight” in a “militaristic” response by police.
“He said he was at the video games playing videos, and he went over there by the toy section where the toy guns were,” said his girlfriend LeeCee Johnson, the mother of his two children. “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 she and his parents heard him die because she put the phone on speaker mode.
“I could hear him just crying and screaming,” Johnson said. “I feel like they shot him down like he was not even human.”
About Nick Chiles
Nick Chiles is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author. He has written or co-written 12 books and won over a dozen major journalism awards during a journalism career that brought him to the Dallas Morning News, the Star-Ledger of New Jersey and New York Newsday, in addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief of Odyssey Couleur travel magazine.
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