Back in September, a grand jury decided not to indict any police officers in the shooting death of John Crawford III, which occurred at a Walmart in Beavercreek, Ohio. If you've been following recent stories of police killings and subsequent grand juries, you've probably heard how rare this is — in 2010, only 11 of 162,000 grand juries failed to indict. But it's clear that his loved ones aren't letting the matter fade away: John Crawford's family is suing Walmart and the officers who fatally shot him, claiming negligence that resulted in his death.
It isn't a criminal case, sad as that may be to many people, but at this point, it may be the last, best chance for a measure of public scrutiny to be shone on the case.
Filed in a Dayton, Ohio court Tuesday, according to NBC News, the federal civil lawsuit alleges that Walmart was negligent in leaving one of its Crosman MK-177 pellet rifles unpackaged on a store shelf. Crawford, 22, was wandering the aisles of Walmart with the faux-rifle in one hand, idly talking on the phone with his other, when another shopper called 911 to report him. Security footage of the moments leading up to Crawford's shooting revealed that the rifle he'd picked up was apparently sitting on a shelf, ready for anyone to grab.
Of course, even if Crawford were carrying a real rifle, he would've been within his legal rights to do so — Ohio is an open-carry state, just one of the many reasons his advocates so hoped that actual criminal charges would be brought in the case. The customer who placed the 911 call on Crawford, as well, attested to threatening behavior — he said Crawford was pointing the rifle at people — which wasn't shown on any of the security footage that was released following the grand jury decision.
In what could be a pivotal piece of information in the case, lawyers for Crawford's family alleged Tuesday that the pellet rifle had been left out for a full two days prior to the fatal encounter.
[Walmart] had every reason to know that someone might mistake a BB gun for a real gun. That gun was not secured like other weapons. … This gun was left unpackaged on a shelf, and in our understanding, it was left there for two days.
Crawford's family is reportedly seeking a minimum of $75,000 as compensation for his death — in my admittedly personal opinion, an exceptionally reasonable and meager sum for the wrongful death of a 22-year-old, with two young children left behind. The Beavercreek Police Department hasn't offered specific comment on the suit just yet, according to NBC News, but rest assured, they will eventually. Walmart, on the other hand, has offered only this:
Out of respect for everyone involved, we believe it’s not appropriate to discuss the specifics of this matter, but we can say that our associates acted properly.
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