An expert pathologist has implicated a police officer in the 2014 shooting death of a 22-year-old Ohio man.
On August 5, 2014, Officer Sean Williams and Sergeant David Darkow responded to a 911 caller who reported that a man in Walmart had a rifle. Williams would testify that the 911 dispatchers told him that the man had loaded the rifle and was pointing it at people.
John Crawford III was holding a replica-style BB/pellet rifle that he had picked up from an opened box on a store shelf. Surveillance video showed Crawford walking around the store talking on the phone with the gun in hand.
When police arrived on site, they found Crawford still holding the gun. Officer Williams shot Crawford two times in his left side. Williams testified that he shot Crawford because he “was about to” point a weapon at him. Crawford died in the hospital shortly after the shooting.
In September 2017, a Greene County special grand jury cleared Officer Williams of any criminal wrongdoing in relation to the shooting.
Wrongful Death Suit
The family of John Crawford filed a wrongful death suit against the city of Beavercreek, Walmart, Beavercreek Police Chief Dennis Evers, Officer Sean Williams and his partner David Darkow. The lawsuit claims that Walmart was negligent for leaving the pellet rifle unpackaged and on the shelf for two days before Crawford picked it up. The suit also claims that the officers did not follow their training to determine whether the information provided by 911 was accurate before opening fire.
The city of Beavercreek retained experts to support their defense. One of the city’s experts, James Scanlon, testified that the shooting of Crawford was justified because he had turned toward the officers with an item that looked like a rifle. When Scanlon was asked whether lethal force would have been justified if Crawford had not rotated his body and gun toward Williams, he responded that the shooting would not have been justified because there would have been no imminent threat of serious bodily harm.
However, the city’s other expert testified that Crawford had never turned toward the officers. The city also retained Dr. George Nichols II, the former chief medical examiner of Kentucky. Dr. Nichols observed the surveillance video and analyzed the bullet entry wounds. Dr. Nichols concluded that Crawford did not turn toward Officer Williams and Sergeant Darkow before being shot.
In response to Dr. Nichols’ testimony, the Crawford family filed a motion for summary judgment. Attorneys for the Crawfords, Dennis Mulvihill and Michael Wright stated, “In a remarkable and unprecedented twist, those hand-picked experts seem to have taken the side of the Crawford family in this litigation and concluded John’s shooting never should have happened…Plaintiffs are unaware of any other case involving a police shooting where the experts hired by the officers to exonerate the officers actually implicate the officers instead.” The motion for summary judgment is currently pending before Judge Walter Rice in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.