CINCINNATI — An Ohio grand jury found officers’ actions were justified in last month’s fatal shooting of a man holding an air rifle at a Wal-Mart store, a special prosecutor said Wednesday, prompting the man’s family to say they were “disgusted” by the decision.
Special Prosecutor Mark Piepmeier said the Greene County grand jury in Xenia opted not to issue any indictments in the Aug. 5 death of 22-year-old John Crawford III in Beavercreek.
A 911 caller reported Crawford was waving what appeared to be a rifle in the store. Police said he didn’t obey commands to put down what turned out to be an air rifle taken off a store shelf.
Crawford’s family, which has called for a federal investigation, said it was “incomprehensible” that police were not indicted.
“The Crawford family is extremely disappointed, disgusted and confused,” the statement said. “They are heartbroken that justice was not done in the tragic death of their only son.”
The U.S. Department of Justice said federal authorities will review the facts and circumstances surrounding the shooting.
Store surveillance video shown during the announcement shows Crawford walking in the aisles while apparently talking on a cellphone. Crawford picks up the air rifle — which Piepmeier said had apparently been unboxed and left on a shelf — and continues walking through the store. A short time later, police arrive and Crawford is shot twice while still holding the air rifle.
The Crawford family accused Piepmeier and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine of not attempting to get an indictment. They also said the store surveillance tape proves that Crawford’s death was not justified.
Crawford’s family has repeatedly asked for a federal investigation into the shooting to see if race was a factor. Crawford was black and the officers are white.
Prosecutor Stacey DeGraffenreid, who assisted Piepmeier, said Crawford was shot twice, once in the elbow and one in the side slightly from the front to the back. DeGraffenreid says no other shots were fired after Crawford went down, dropping the rifle.
“This was a real tragedy,” DeGraffenreid said in a telephone interview. But she said that based on what the officers had been told when they entered the Wal-Mart, they were doing what they were trained to do.
The city of Beavercreek said a statement that was asking the FBI to conduct a review to determine if there were any civil rights violations.
DeWine said after the decision was announced that he thought it is an appropriate time for the Justice Department to look into whether any federal laws were violated during the shooting, and U.S. Attorney Carter Stewart in Columbus released a statement later saying the department’s Civil Rights Division, the FBI, and his office will conduct an independent review of the case.
DeWine said state authorities have been in frequent contact with federal officials and will turn over requested investigative files to them.
• Associated Press writer Dan Sewell in Cincinnati contributed to this report.
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