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No Civil Rights Charges In Beavercreek Walmart Shooting

The Department of Justice says it cannot prove the officer who shot and killed John Crawford III in Beavercreek violated any civil rights laws and it will not pursue federal criminal charges.
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The Department of Justice says it cannot prove the officer who shot and killed John Crawford III in Beavercreek violated any civil rights laws and it will not pursue federal criminal charges.

The U.S. Justice Department says there is insufficient evidence to prove a white Beavercreek Police Officer  violated federal civil rights laws when he shot and killed a black Walmart customer three years ago.

On August 5, 2014, Officer Sean Williams responded to a call that a man had a gun inside the store. The man, 22 year old John Crawford III, had picked up a pellet gun and was carrying it around the store while talking on the phone. Police say they ordered him to put it down a couple of times and that's when Williams shot him.

During a 2016 news conference Crawford's mother said, "He wasn't doing anything wrong, but yet he's dead and no one has been held accountable."

The attorney for the Crawford family, Michael Wright, is surprised by the Justice Department findings. "We have the officers on video shooting and killing this young man on site. Even the state prosecutor indicated that he did nothing wrong, that he was not breaking any laws or doing anything that should have got him killed."

In a press release, the District Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio said under federal criminal civil rights statutes, prosecutors would have to show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a law enforcement officer willfully deprived Mr. Crawford of a constitutional right. "To establish willfulness, federal authorities would be required to show that the officer acted with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids. This is one of the highest standards of intent imposed by law. Mistake, misperception, negligence, necessity, or poor judgment are not sufficient to establish a federal criminal civil rights violation."

The Justice Department says its investigation was conducted by career investigators and prosecutors and included a review of voluminous materials, including the investigative reports generated by the Beavercreek Police Department and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation; forensic evidence reports; the autopsy report; photographs of the crime scene, toxicology reports; and EMS reports.

In addition the government says it analyzed all available footage form Walmart's in-store video surveillance system using resources at the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia.

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With more than 30 years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market, Ann Thompson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology.