A coalition of grassroots Miami Valley activist groups is asking the United States Justice Department to continue its investigation into the death of John Crawford III. Crawford, a 22-year-old African American, was shot and killed by white Beavercreek Police Officer Sean Williams at a Walmart store on Aug. 5, 2014.
Justice Department officials recently announced they would close the investigation, citing insufficient evidence to pursue civil-rights charges.
At a rally attended by several dozen protesters in downtown Dayton Saturday, Bishop Richard Cox with Justice for Racial Equality and Brotherhood says his organization is among a number of groups that have signed a letter asking that the federal government reverse its decision.
“We are asking the Justice Department to reopen this case. It should have never been closed. There is enough evidence to prove that the officer that killed John Crawford murdered him,” he told the crowd.
Federal authorities said investigators analyzed evidence, including store-surveillance video, interviewed witnesses and used an independent crime scene reconstruction expert in their review of Crawford’s shooting.
U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman said prosecutors would have had to show beyond a reasonable doubt that officers willfully violated Crawford’s civil rights. Glassman said the evidence, “simply could not satisfy those burdens.”
Cox and other speakers at Saturday’s rally were not satisfied. Cox says Crawford was a victim.
“He was not threatening anybody in Walmart. He was shopping, on the phone, and gets killed, and yet they closed the case. That is an injustice. We have to hold police officers accountable for their actions,” Cox says.
A Greene County grand jury had previously declined to indict anyone involved in the Crawford case. The Beavercreek Police Department has maintained officers committed no criminal violations and followed accepted law-enforcement protocol.
Williams shot 22-year-old Crawford after a 911-caller reported a man waving a rifle inside the Walmart store. Police say Crawford didn’t obey commands to drop what they learned later was an air rifle he had picked up from a store shelf.
Crawford’s family says Crawford was given less than a second to respond to police commands.
The family has filed a separate civil suit against Beavercreek police and Walmart Stores, alleging negligence and civil rights violations. A family attorney says the case could go to trial early next year.
The city of Beavercreek and Walmart have both denied the allegations in the suit.
A coalition of Miami Valley faith-based and grassroots community groups, including Justice for Racial Equality and Brotherhood, and Black Lives Matter Miami Valley, is planning a demonstration outside the Walmart in Beavercreek in August to commemorate Crawford’s shooting.