- Associated Press - Friday, March 6, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Wal-Mart on Friday denied responsibility for the death of a man fatally shot by police while carrying an air rifle in one of its stores last year.

John Crawford III was shot in August when police responded to a 911 call reporting a man waving what appeared to be a firearm at the store in the Dayton suburb of Beavercreek. Police said the pellet rifle appeared to be real, and a grand jury concluded the shooting was justified.

Crawford’s relatives sued in federal court, contending that the officers were reckless, unreasonably used excessive force, weren’t properly trained and caused a wrongful death and emotional distress, among other allegations. They say Crawford, 22, was shopping and talking on a cellphone and did nothing wrong. They’re seeking at least $75,000 in compensation.

The police officer who shot Crawford has said he didn’t respond to repeated commands to drop the weapon and turned toward officers in an aggressive manner.

Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. denied it did anything to cause Crawford’s death. Wal-Mart also denied it “engaged in malicious, intentional, or reckless conduct,” according to its response filed in federal court in Dayton.

The company denied its security cameras “provide for complete monitoring and surveillance of the activities of customers.”

The lawsuit alleges that Wal-Mart was negligent “concerning the placement of guns at its stores and also acted negligently in failing to secure” the air rifle, which the family’s attorneys said was left unpackaged on a shelf.

The company pulled pellet rifles from the shelves of its Beavercreek store after the shooting.

The city, its police chief and the two officers who confronted Crawford denied the family’s claims in a response filed last month and asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit.

Crawford was black, and the officer who shot him is white. Crawford’s family has sought a federal investigation to see if race was a factor.

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Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.

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