Caller: Cop told man to drop gun at Wal-Mart
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A man who called police to report a man carrying a gun in an Ohio Wal-Mart told state investigators he heard an officer repeatedly say “put it down” just before police shot the man, killing him, according to a summary of the interview released by the state.
The 24-year-old caller, Ronald Ritchie, was interviewed the day after the Aug. 5 shooting at the store in suburban Dayton that killed John Crawford III. The 22-year-old Crawford had been talking on a cellphone and carrying an air rifle he picked up from a shelf as he walked through the store.
Ritchie’s account, released Tuesday, provides some support for written statements made by the two officers involved, who said Crawford appeared to be carrying a black assault rifle, didn’t respond to repeated commands to drop it and turned toward them aggressively.
Crawford’s relatives and their attorneys have questioned that version of events, contending he was “shot on sight” with no chance to respond and that the shooting was unreasonable.
Store surveillance video captured the shooting from a distance but doesn’t include audio and therefore doesn’t document any comments by the officers or the time between such comments and when Crawford drops to the floor.
Ritchie had called police to report a man was waving a gun and pointing it at people. In the next-day interview, Ritchie said the man actually didn’t point the gun at people but swung it around and flashed the muzzle at children.
Ritchie told investigators the gun looked like an assault rifle he personally owned, and he believed it was a real weapon because he didn’t see an orange tip indicating it was an air rifle. He said he heard police say “Put it down, put it down,” and he said it appeared the man “checked them” or pulled the gun toward the officers. He said the officer’s shots came about two seconds after the police commands.
“If you’re dumb enough to point any kind of weapon at a police officer you get what’s coming to you,” Ritchie said, according to the interview summary.
Crawford’s relatives and their attorneys say he posed no threat and have disputed Ritchie’s description of Crawford’s actions.
A grand jury concluded the shooting was justified, and the U.S. Department of Justice is reviewing the case.
One aspect the family wants reviewed is whether race was a factor. Crawford was black, and the officers are white.
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