John Crawford III was gunned down with little or no warning by Beavercreek, Ohio police last month after a man called 911 and claimed that he was pointing a rifle at shoppers inside a Walmart. Crawford had picked up a BB gun sold by the store and was apparently thinking about purchasing it.
Video clearly shows that the caller, Ronald Ritchie, made claims about Crawford’s actions that simply were not true:
John Crawford III was shot dead last month by an officer responding to an emergency call made by Ronald Ritchie, a shopper standing 100ft away, who repeatedly stated to the dispatcher that Crawford was pointing the air rifle at customers.
Surveillance footage and audio recordings released after a grand jury declined to indict the officer who shot Crawford showed that Crawford was holding the rifle at his side and pointing it to the floor at the time when Ritchie alleged that “he just pointed it at, like, two children”.
Crawford’s father and the family’s attorney said that Ritchie, 24, should be questioned by police over the discrepancy between the footage and his allegation, which he made about 80 seconds before Crawford was shot, and confirmed when asked soon after. Knowingly “making false alarms” is a crime under Ohio law punishable by a fine or jail sentence.
“He was the catalyst, if you will, in the whole sequence of events leading up to my son’s death,” John Crawford Jr told the Guardian. “It was a crank call. He excited the call, and exaggerated the call, and frankly it was just a bunch of lies.”
Ritchie declined to comment in an online message on Friday. He has previously maintained that Crawford posed a threat to shoppers and that the 911 call was justified.
Special prosecutor Mark Piepmeier stressed on Wednesday that the responding police officers were led to understand that Crawford was an active threat. One even called back to the dispatcher to check that the 911 caller said Crawford was pointing the rifle at people. “If he’s not there, we may not be here,” Piepmeier said of Ritchie at a press conference.
To the best we can determine, Ritchie’s 911 call was the only 911 call regarding Crawford, and there were no other 911 calls until after Beavercreek police shot Crawford as he was speaking to the mother of his children, the barrel of the BB gun in his hands pointing at the ground.
A grand jury did not indict the officers who shot Crawford, but the evidence has been handed over to the Department of Justice to determine if a civil rights case is warranted.
In addition to Crawford’s death, shopper Angela Williams (above, right, in white sweater) had a heart attack and died in the panic after officers shot Crawford. Neither she nor her children seemed fazed by Crawford talking on the phone while holding the BB gun. Williams’s son holds Ritchie responsible for her death as well.
The children who Ritchie appeared to claim were under threat from Crawford were in the store with their mother, Angela Williams. Williams, 37, died of a heart attack in the panic that ensued among customers following the police shooting. “I hope that he’s happy with himself,” her teenage son said of Ritchie in a Facebook post earlier this month.
911 caller Ritchie’s exaggerated call is eerily similar to the kind of call advocated by left-wing radio host Mike Malloy and some Moms Demand Action supporters who apparently want long-gun open carriers shot by police.